OLE OLSEN: Symphony No. 1; Trombone Concerto; Asgaardsreien – Christian Lindberg, trombone/ Arctic Philharmonic Orchestra/ Christian Lindberg, Rune A. Halvorsen – BIS multichannel SACD BIS-SACD-1968 [Distr. by Qualiton], 62:56 ****:
Ole Olsen (1850-1927) was born in Hammerfest, one of, if not the most northerly city in the world, and here, on this new release from BIS, a selection of his orchestral music is played appositely by surely one of the most northern orchestras, the Arctic Philharmonic, also known as the Nordnorsk Symfoniorkester. Olsen first worked in Trondheim, studying composition and organ, then travelled to Leipzig, where he wrote his first symphony presented here in the mid-1870s.
In four movements, it begins with an immediately arresting Allegro maestoso, followed by a delicate scherzo, Andante and, lastly, preceded by a slow introduction, a bracing finale. A tuneful work, with many interesting motifs, it bears repeated listening and is a fine example of neglected music of the Romantic era, if not the most original. The orchestra’s fine wind and brass players shine in this performance.
Asgaardsreien (1878) is perhaps Olsen’s best-known work. A Lisztian tone-poem, it tells of Aasgaard’s wild ride, inspired by J.S. Welhaven’s poem of 1844 and also by Peter Nicolai Arbo’s painting of 1872. Wild and exciting it certainly is, Christian Lindberg and the orchestra producing a taut and vivid reading.
Whilst Olsen has been neglected, these works’ release is actually the second to appear on SACD within the past year. A fine production from Sterling involves the Latvian National Symphony under Terje Mikkelsen, well recorded, and with a larger sounding orchestra. The Arctic Philharmonic’s more intimate sound is equally suitable and either release can be recommended with confidence.
Where Mikkelsen included the Suite for String Orchestra which failed to impress his friend Grieg, Lindberg presents the Trombone Concerto (1886). Olsen wrote this work originally for valve trombone, and another version for horn, the first performance on slide trombone heard only in 2010. For this recording, Rune Halvorsen assumes the baton, leaving Lindberg to concentrate on the solo part, producing a highly colourful reading of this compact three movement work. There are moments when some may feel Lindberg overdoes the vibrato but the performance as a whole makes one realise why he is thought of as one of the world’s finest trombone players.
BIS engineers produce a finely-recorded SACD, sounding especially well in the multichannel programme, though some may feel Lindberg is a mite too closely balanced in the concerto. Those drawn to Svendsen and Grieg will want to investigate this release further – I don’t think they will be disappointed!
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