Poul Rovsing Olsen: Piano Concerto and Orchestral Works
14 March 2013
William KreindlerPoul Rovsing Olsen
was a Danish composer, performer, critic, and ethnomusicologist His earlier music, as evidenced in the Variations Symphoniques
and the Piano Concerto, combined Bartókian and twelve-tone qualities with elements from his studies in Paris in 1948-49. Later his music was influenced by both post-Messiaen French music and the results of Olsen's studies in non-Western music.
The Variations Symphoniques
was the composer's first major orchestral work. There is some use of twelve-tone procedures but is basically tonal, though austere. The individual variations are cleverly subsumed into the larger whole and the overall impression is one of great seriousness mixed with drama. These elements are also to the fore in the Piano Concerto, a work of tremendous energy, in which the piano and the orchestra are equal partners. Olsen's lyrical abilities and his sense of humor are also evident here.
Fourteen years separate the Piano Concerto
from the suite Au fond de la nuit
(In the depth of the night), a portrayal of a journey into outer space which was quite topical when the piece was written. The four movements describe the lift-off from earth (L'espace
), the giant red star Bételgeuse
(cf. Holst's Op. 48), a second, dead, star revolving on itself (L'astre mort
), and the return to earth (Retour
). Here the musical style is more that of Dutilleux than of Bartók and shows far greater subtlety and instrumental resource than evidenced in the earlier works.
is well-known for her recordings of Danish piano and chamber music. She handles the wide changes of tempo and mood in the Piano Concerto with great aplomb and subtlety. Bo Holten needs little introduction as a conductor of Danish and other music. His ability to build a performance from beginning to end and to differentiate subtle changes of mood serves Olsen's music well. Little of Olsen's music besides a Piano Trio is currently available, but this disc will serve as a useful introduction to the composer's works.