Ib Nørholm: Tavole per Orfeo
01 May 2012
Ib Nørholm (b 1931) is a prominent Danish composer whose commitment to polystylistics came early and wholeheartedly. He never disavowed the roots of his earliest work in post-Nielsenesque tonality, allowing it to resurface explicitly even after his espousal of avant-garde idioms in the 1960s. The works on this recording date mostly from that decade, which encompasses the 'New Simplicity' of the Flowers from the Flora of Danish Poetry (1966, originally for piano and voice) and the Tavole per Orfeo (1967-69), whose central movement embodies music theatre in recitar parlando style. Between these extremes is the broadly atonal song cycle Stilleliv ('Still Life') of 1968, in which a strophic quality is carried over from the more straightforwardly tonal works. Though these latter are not uniformly successful- the consecutive octaves in Juniakvarel ('June water-colour') are really cloying - their inclusion demonstrates the sheer range of styles with which Nørholm sought to engage. Ultimately, that range is such that in a comparatively short recital, the relationship between them isn't always obvious - a slightly unsettling experience.
That said, the composer could hardly wish for more elegant interpreters. Inevitably, Else Torp takes centre stage. In the more modernist pieces her straight tone allows for admirable clarity, while the tonal ones admit of judicious vibrato. Only in the music theatre piece could one have done with more abandon, with Euridice's venom having still more bite. Ably seconded by her accompanists (with guitarist Per Pålsson enjoying his solo movements in the Orpheus cycle), she delivers polished, assured performances.