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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Geirr Tveitt - Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 4; The Turtle (Sveinung Bjelland; Håkon Austbø)


Composer: Geirr Tveitt
  1. Piano Concerto No. 1 in F major, Op. 1: I. Tranquillo
  2. Piano Concerto No. 1 in F major, Op. 1: II. Giocoso
  3. Piano Concerto No. 1 in F major, Op. 1: III. Lento
  4. The Turtle, for mezzo-soprano & orchestra
  5. Piano Concerto No. 4 "Aurora Borealis", Op. 130: I. The Northern Lights rise over a palette of autumn colours
  6. Piano Concerto No. 4 "Aurora Borealis", Op. 130: II. ... sparkle in the winter sky and ...
  7. Piano Concerto No. 4 "Aurora Borealis", Op. 130: III.  ... sail away in the spring night.

Sveinung Bjelland, piano (1-3)
Håkon Austbø, piano (5-7)
Ingebjørg Kosmo, mezzo-soprano (4)
Stavanger Symphony Orchestra
Ole Kristian Ruud, conductor

Date: 2004
Label: BIS




This brilliant disc duplicates (in the piano concertos) repertoire already recorded by Naxos, also extremely well. Differences are slight, with BIS enjoying a marginal advantage thanks to superior recorded sound and an orchestra perhaps a bit more in touch with the idiom, though this is less important in the works under consideration here–none of these pieces relies to any special degree on Norwegian folk styles. The early First Piano Concerto is a short (20-minute) three-movement piece in slow-fast-slow form that isn’t one of the composer’s more memorable creations. Still, the music makes attractive listening and an ideal introduction to the two larger works.

Piano Concerto No. 4, subtitled “Northern Lights”, is a masterpiece that stands in relation to Tveitt’s other works somewhat as does Martinu’s equally evocative Fourth Piano Concerto (subtitled “Incantations”). Both employ a more modern idiom to create a mysterious, otherworldly universe of sounds, one that pianist Hakon Austbo inhabits with a remarkable degree of sympathy and virtuosity. This really marvelous piece belongs in the collection of anyone who enjoys good modern piano concertos, and frankly you should have both this and the Naxos recording, for there’s more to this music than any single version can completely reveal.

The Turtle is an amazing solo cantata with an English text very surprisingly taken from John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. What is less surprising is the fact that Tveitt’s sensitivity to nature translates so well from the mountains and fjords of Norway to the deserts of the American West. Now I have to confess that I loathe Steinbeck, particularly in passages such as this one, which describes a turtle crossing a road and almost getting squashed by a truck, surviving to drop some grass seed stuck in its shell in the dirt on the other side. But I also have to admit that taken out of context this makes for a terrific musical setting, similar in conception to works such as Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915. It’s colorful and utterly mesmerizing, and Ingebjorg Kosmo sings it beautifully.

If you’ve been captivated by Tveitt’s music, then you certainly will want this disc even if it involves some duplication of repertoire. It represents the final release in the Stavanger Symphony’s terrific series of Tveitt recordings, and we can only hope that as more music is rescued from the ashes of the devastating fire at the composer’s home that destroyed the majority of his scores, Ole Kristian Ruud, his excellent band, and BIS will be there to capture the moment. [8/10/2004]

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: **** / SOUND: *****


Geirr Tveitt, born Nils Tveit (October 19, 1908 – February 1, 1981) was a Norwegian composer and pianist. Tveitt was a central figure of the national movement in Norwegian cultural life during the 1930s. His music draws from many styles and traditions, most notably Stravinsky, Bartók, Debussy and Ravel, always underpinned by idioms derived from Norwegian folk-music. In 1970, Tveitt's house in Kvam was burned to the ground, with almost 300 opuses of his manuscripts. 80% of Tveitt's production was gone forever. Most of Tveitt's remaining music is now commercially available on records.


Sveinung Bjelland (born 20 September 1970 in Stavanger ) is a Norwegian classical pianist. He studied with Hans Leygraf at the Salzburg Mozarteum and at the University of the Arts in Berlin. He has made ​​numerous recordings, both as a soloist and chamber musician. His recording of Scarlatti and Mendelssohn sonatas received international acclaim and was nominated for the Norwegian Grammy Award (Spellemannsprisen) in 2006. It was followed by numerous other recordings. He teaches at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo and also a professor at the University of Kristiansand.


Håkon Austbø (born October 22, 1948 in Kongsberg) is a Norwegian classical pianist. Austbø lived and worked in Holland for three decades before finally returning to Norway. He has served on the faculties of several major music schools, including the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam. Austbø has made countless recordings over the years for a variety of labels, including BIS, Brilliant Classics, Harmonia Mundi, Naïve, Naxos, Norway Music, and Simax. Among Austbø's more acclaimed recordings is the 2010 reissue on Brilliant Classics of the complete solo piano works of Grieg.


Ole Kristian Ruud (born 2 October 1958, Lillestrøm) is a Norwegian conductor. He studied clarinet with Richard Kjelstrup at the Norwegian Academy of Music, and studied conducting at the Sibelius Academy. Ruud was principal conductor of the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra, Norrköping Symphony Orchestra and Stavanger Symphony Orchestra. He has been professor of conducting at the Norwegian Academy of Music since 1999. In 2005, he completed recording the complete orchestral works of Grieg with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, for BIS records.


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