FARTEIN VALEN (1887-1952): 3 Gedichte von Goethe, Op. 6, Mignon - 2 Gedichte von Goethe, Op. 7, KETIL HVOSLEF (b.1939): From the Gospel According to Mary Magdalene, JOSTEIN STALHEIM (b.1960): Ophelia Scene.
Catalogue Number: 05Q061
Label: LAWO Classics
Description: Valen's Opp. 6 and 7 songs were written soon after he arrived at the idiom toward which he had been working; an atonal polyphony, as rigorous as that of Bach, avoiding tonal harmonic progressions in the manner of atonal Schoenberg. The three little Op.6 miniatures are intricately contrapuntal, melodically beautiful and delicate. The Mignon songs, with their longer texts and wider emotional range, are harmonically fuller, with a greater sense of melody and fully-textured accompaniment, and distinct suggestions of temporary tonal centers in their overall freely atonal idiom. Hvoslef sets passages from the esoteric teachings of the text in extremely spare textures, crystalline and admitting of maximum intelligibility of the words. Within a phrase, intervals are narrow, often suggesting the austerity of plainchant, while the accompaniment consists of little, often repeating gestures, sometimes chords of luminous tonal harmony. A kind of insistence on the text is provided by passages in ostinato patterns and persistent patterns. Stalheim's 'scene' is a very effective rendering of the essence of Ophelia's mad scene from Hamlet. By extracting excerpts from the text spoken by Ophelia, ranging from irrational ravings to words that would, in another context, be innocent and childlike, Stalheim presents a concentrated portrait of an unhinged mind. Sometimes the vocal line breaks into abrupt fragments and stuttered syllables, while the piano enhances the atmosphere with interjections in odd registers and textures; sometimes - even more disturbingly - the melody is simple, diatonic, folksong-like, while the piano subverts the innocent mood with chromatic slitherings woven around the voice. German-English and English texts. Bettina Smith (mezzo), Einar Røttingen (piano).