Norwegian Opera Overtures. © 2021 LAWO Classics

CD Spotlight

Much to Appreciate

GERALD FENECH finds these rare Norwegian Opera Overtures well worth exploring

'Ingar Bergby keeps things moving briskly, and in his knowledgeable hands the music sounds even more accessible than one expects it to be.'


When one hears the word 'opera' many would like to think that this refers solely to a select number of national traditions that, throughout the last four centuries, have nurtured and made famous this musical genre. France, Italy, Germany, Russia and Britain (to a certain extent) can be considered as the frontrunners. But what of the rest such as Sweden, Poland, Czechia and other Scandinavian and Slavonic countries that have, against all the odds, tried to etch their own operatic world? A few works here and there have indeed succeeded; Dvořák's Rusalka, Smetana's The Bartered Bride and Moniuszko's Halka readily come to mind. But, by far and large, many a score still lies in some drawer or cupboard gathering dust.

This CD will raise a few eyebrows, as most unexpectedly, it focuses on Norwegian opera, which for some is 'anathema'. 'What?', they say, 'Norwegian opera? I've never heard of any such music.' Well, this is your chance to get a glimpse of this most neglected repertoire which, I must admit, gave me great enjoyment.

Listen — Johannes Haarklou: Væringene i Miklagard - Ouverture
(track 3, 0:01-0:56) ℗ 2021 LAWO :

The composers are, unquestionably, totally new to me, and I presume even to you readers, but I feel it would not be amiss if I just list them, if only to give you an idea of what you are about to experience. So here they are: Waldemar Thrane (1790-1828), Martin Udbye (1820-1889), Johannes Haarklou (1847-1925), Ole Olsen (1850-1927), Sigwardt Aspestrand (1856-1941), Catharinus Elling (1858-1942), Hjalmar Borgstrøm (1864-1925) and Arne Eggen (1881-1955).

Listen — Arne Eggen: Olav Liljekrans - Danser
(track 9, 0:02-0:58) ℗ 2021 LAWO :

All the overtures on this recording were written between 1824 and 1940 so the music is romantic and post-romantic, but, nonetheless, there is many a good tune, and rhythmically and harmonically all the pieces are very well crafted. Do not expect a Tannhauser or a Cellini but there is much to appreciate and feel good about.

Listen — Sigwardt Aspestrand: Der Recke von Lyrskovsheid - Ouverture
(track 5, 0:00-0:54) ℗ 2021 LAWO :

Ingar Bergby keeps things moving briskly, and in his knowledgeable hands the music sounds even more accessible than one expects it to be. An hour plus of some of the rarest operatic music you can hope for, which will definitely rouse a strong curiosity for one to delve deeper in this hidden Norwegian goldmine which has been buried for far too long.

Listen — Hjalmar Borgstrøm: Thora paa Rimol - Ouverture
(track 8, 8:14-9:12) ℗ 2021 LAWO :

Sound and annotations should raise no qualms. I urge you, do have a dig, it's worthwhile.

Copyright © 19 September 2021 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta







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