JOHAN HALVORSEN Orchestral Works, Vol. 2: Suite ancienne; 3 Norwegian Dances; Air norvegien; Chant de la Veslemoy; Symphony No. 2 “Fatum” in d minor – Marianne Thorsen, vioilin/ Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/ Neeme Järvi – Chandos 10614, 75:50 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
Halvorsen was one of the most important Norwegian composers following Edvard Grieg but is almost unknown in the West. His works have a similar national feeling combined with skilled orchestrations derived from French romantic-period composers. The composer conducted this same orchestra in the 1890s. The three center works here feature violinist Thorsen with the orchestra, and reminded me somewhat of Grieg’s Holberg Suite. The first of them is a folk-tune medley. The Suite ancienne alludes to the oldest structures, but is clearly a more modern work, lasting nearly a half hour. It was originally composed as entractes for a play titled “The Lying-In Room,” but later arranged into a suite with no relation to the original play. Its later three movements are in the style of late-18th century serenades. The Fatum Symphony is regarded as the best of the composer’s three symphonies, and gets its name from its use of an opening “Fate” motif heard thru all four movements – in the manner of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. Its second movement has a lovely oboe cantilena, followed by dramatic development of the “fate” motif. The Intermezzo third movement (of the four) has a most cheerful mien.
These works will appeal to anyone partial to the music of Grieg and Svensen. Pianist-conductor Jorn Fossheim labored over the task of preparing new editions of Halvorsen’s work for these recordings. They were absolutely required because Halvorsen’s published works are famous for being full of many discrepancies. Both sonics and performance levels are excellent.
– John Sunier