Svendsen Vol 3 Stor

Johan Svendsen: Orkesterverk Vol. 3

Johan Halvorsen

This last volume in the survey of orchestral music by the Norwegian composer Johan Svendsen takes us to the second half of the 1860s, when Svendsen was in his twenties, a recent graduate of the Leipzig Conservatory. 

Symphony No. 1 was dedicated to Carl F. Leche, the Swedish-Norwegian consul in Lübeck, who had helped Svendsen secure funding to attend that Conservatory. The orchestration is French in character, the sound world one full of contrasts.

To islandske Melodier (Two Icelandic Melodies) is an arrangement for string orchestra of two tunes collected during a trip to Iceland and the Faroe Islands in 1867. Svendsen thought the Violin Concerto, which followed in 1870, to be something new and original, its focus resting on the contrast in timbre between the soloist and the orchestra, and on symphonic development, rather than on virtuosic display – though the solo part is highly active and always challenging. The work is thought to be modelled, at least in part, on Berlioz’s Harold en Italie.

The Norwegian violinist Marianne Thorsen is the expert soloist. Norsk Kunstnerkarneval (Norwegian Artists’ Carnival) was composed for the annual carnival of the Artists’ Association in Christiania, the town (now Oslo) in which Svendsen had settled with his family. The work has two main themes: a Norwegian folk dance and an Italian popular melody (made especially famous in an arrangement by Donizetti). At the work’s climax Svendsen joins these two melodies in counterpoint – though they are in different metres. It remains one of Svendsen’s most popular works.

The Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by Neeme Järvi.

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