Eivind Groven: Symphonies Nos 1 and 2. © 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd

CD Spotlight

Unfamiliar yet Totally Rewarding

GERALD FENECH listens to symphonies by the twentieth century Norwegian composer Eivind Groven

'The Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra delivers performances that are convincing throughout, and Peter Szilvay's ardent attention to detail brings out all the hidden twists of these remarkable but unjustly neglected scores.'

 

This is what the composer Arne Nordheim had to say on the occasion of Elvind Groven's 60th birthday in 1961: 'If anyone asks the way to Groven's place, they will receive the answer that they only have to follow their longing. It is to the east of noise and to the west of today's insane tempo – just by a forest lake. And on the other side there is something playing.' A very apt description that sums up both Groven's personality as well as his music.

Elvind Groven (1901-1977) grew up on a farm in the region of Vest-Telemark in the centre of Norway. This area, though geographically isolated, is rich in culture and the heritage of folk music was of paramount importance. Before the composer was fifteen years old he had already mastered over two hundred folk dance tunes on the Hardanger fiddle, and he even composed for the instrument. After training as a teacher in Oslo he encountered the world of classical music, and this not only had a liberating effect but also spurred him on in three ways: a) Folk Music b) Acoustics and c) Composition. Indeed, Groven is today considered as one of the most pivotal interwar Norwegian composers who tried to create a new national language of music by combining elements of authentic folk music with new techniques. Worth mentioning is the fact that Groven's theoretical and practical preoccupation with the problem of pure tuning - piano and organ in particular - attracted international interest.

And yet, outside his own country, Groven's name is hardly known. This is a real pity as his music, though not easy to listen to, is truly brilliant, and his original use of Norwegian folk melodies makes his works quite intriguing.

Listen — Groven: Allegro (Symphony No 1)
(track 2, 0:00-1:00) © 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

This recording of his two symphonies is timely indeed, and if you are an admirer of late-Romantic orchestral music, you are in for a pleasant discovery. Composed in 1937, Groven's First Symphony titled 'Towards the Mountains' is clearly based on folk melodies, but the composer's personal touch and imaginative orchestration makes the work sound nothing like more familiar Norwegian composers such as Svendsen and Grieg. The engrossing tuba solo in particular, introducing the Largo, conjures up a captivating atmosphere that is hard to resist.

Listen — Groven: Largo (Symphony No 1)
(track 3, 0:00-0:53) © 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

Symphony No 2 titled 'The Midnight Hour' (1938) was a huge success at its premiere on 24 October 1946 and many associated the piece with the pain of the War years, but Groven stressed that the work should not be understood programmatically. Both symphonies make use of the so-called 'progressive transformation' where, unlike other contemporaries, Groven created sounds and not instrumentation of folk material.

Listen — Groven: Allegro (Symphony No 2)
(track 7, 9:02-10:02) © 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

The Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra delivers performances that are convincing throughout, and Peter Szilvay's ardent attention to detail brings out all the hidden twists of these remarkable but unjustly neglected scores. Unfamiliar yet totally rewarding stuff in excellent sound and presentation.

Copyright © 19 July 2020 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta

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CD INFORMATION - EIVIND GROVEN: SYMPHONIES NOS 1 AND 2

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