PER NØRGÅRD Symfonier 4 & 5
05 May 2016
David's Review Corner
David DentonPer Norgard’s eight symphonies stand among the most outstanding orchestral works of our time
, and I hope these two new releases will mark a complete cycle. The Second dates from 1970 and is contained within one movement, the programme notes explaining at length Norgard’s compositional process at the time. All very interesting, though the end result is how it sounds to the listener, and it is audience response that will find it a place in the concert repertoire. From the outset you will find a fascination in the sounds produced, the every changing texture creating a mood of atonality, yet without any premeditated intention to produce the sounds that we relate to music from the Second Viennese School. In dynamic the work continues to grow with the progressive addition of departments of the orchestra, only to go in reverse when the first climatic peak has been reached. These dynamic surges are a feature of a work that becomes increasingly animated and intense, until the final bars evaporate into peace. It is coupled with the Sixth from 1999, a score shaped in the conventional three movements, though the initial random appearance a notes—to the listener, if not the composer—does eventually coalesce into more readily recognisable shapes. The central Lentissimo, then becomes rather sinister in a dark and sombre quality, the linked short final Allegro energico bringing a massive change of mood with its jazzy rhythms that disintegrate as the movement ends. The Fourth from 1981 is in two movements
and was composed to a scenario of The Indian Rose Garden and Chinese Witch Lake. To understand their meaning and import you will have to read the enclosed booklet, but it takes as its inspiration from the Swiss artist, Adolf Wolfli, whose mental illness prevented that ever being turned into reality, Norgard composing the work of his memory. After the rather abstract sounds of the garden, the second movement is violent, contorted, and yet in many ways conforms more to symphonic traditions. The Fifth is in five movements and toys with the violent forces of nature with music often high on impact, that come between still moments that have an undercurrent of unease. The second movement certainly has a feeling of primaeval events, the Andante and Lento movements offering a respite from the impact that returns in a finale replete with brass and percussion, the picture of lightening on the disc’s cover being very appropriate. All four works require an orchestra of outstanding quality which it finds in Oslo, and as the composer would appear to have worked with the conductor, John Storgards, in the preparation of these recordings, they must represent new benchmarks. The sound quality is of exceptional clarity and spaciousness.