PER NØRGÅRD (b.1932): Symphonies No. 1 "Sinfonia austera", Op. 13 and No. 8.
Catalogue Number: 06P008
Format: SACD hybrid
Description: This disc is a real treat; one of the world's pre-eminent and most distinctive orchestras bringing the perspective of an unfamiliar performing tradition to bear on the first and most recent symphonies (separated by half a century) of one of the greatest symphonists of our time. The hitherto rather undervalued First (1953) was written while Norgard was fascinated by Sibelius, of whose music he had made a detailed study (the fruits of which he sent to the older composer, who approved, and reciprocated by encouraging Nørgård). Not yet mature Nørgård, with clearly discernible elements of Sibelius, as well as Nørgård's teacher, Holmboe, the work is nonetheless a compelling and masterful work from an original and already accomplished symphonist. The first movement begins in nocturnal mystery, incorporating some very Sibelian gestures and actual allusions to the early symphonies, the Sixth, and Tapiola, but soon the music takes on a more menacing aspect, and the arrival of strained, tormented sustained string lines underpinned by implacable percussion ostinati brings the music closer to Pettersson's world. The second movement is pure nature music, a somber, mysterious, rugged and beautiful landscape, also with many Sibelian features. The finale is tough and energetic, gathering momentum as it goes until another episode of Pettersson-like mechanism arises to drive the work to a decisive conclusion. Nørgård's latest symphony, typically for this constantly self-renewing composer, has only the broadest stylistic features in common with its predecessors. The work is astonishingly youthful, buoyant and transparent of texture, abounding in lively spiralling patterns and shifting layers. The kaleidoscopic, dancing textures of the first movement contrast with the reflective second, its three slowly revolving thematic statements separated by livelier episodes, while the hyperactive finale reintroduces the glittering timbres and endlessly ascending scales of the first movement en route to a visionary, ecstatic climax. Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; Sakari Oramo. Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; Sakari Oramo.