Neglected GRIEG work: "Olav Trygvason" Op. 50

Locked
Lance
Site Administrator
Posts: 17753
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 1:27 am
Location: Binghamton, New York
Contact:

Neglected GRIEG work: "Olav Trygvason" Op. 50

Post by Lance » Sat Feb 10, 2007 9:45 pm

Those who consider themselves "completists" (see another thread on this subject), probably wasted no time in picking up Deutsche Grammophon's six-CD boxed set of Edvard Grieg's Complete Music with Orchestra [471.300] all with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Neeme Järvi, whose work I respect more and more with time.

Among the seventeen (17) works in this bargain-box is a magnificent work written for the theater. Olav Trygvason took its inspiration from the celebrated Norwegian poet Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. (The other great Norwegian poet/writer at the time was Henrik Ibsen.) Bjørnson took his own poetic inspiration from Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241), the Icelandic poet and historian who took it upon himself to write about Norwegian kings. The success of Bjørnson's former writings, Sigurd Jorsalfar and Landkjenning (Land Sighting), which was also set to music by Grieg as his Opp. 22 and 31 respectively, prompted Bjørnson to dig even deeper to write the text to his Olav Trygvason. Grieg was very much interested in setting Bjørnson's text to music, but getting the composer and writer together was very complex and involved , which annotator Binn Fenestad outlines very clearly in his notes accompanying this set. It seems to have been an on-again and off-again kind of friendship.

In Grieg's Olav Trygvason, Op. 50, which was never completed, not only do we have the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra but its chorus as well, and three outstanding soloists: Randi Stene, mezzo-soprano (as A Woman), Anne Gjevang, contralto (as The Sibyl), and Håkan Hagegård, baritone (as A High Priest), with Mats Nilsson as the chorus master. The work here is in three scenes with seven completed sections. Hearing this only makes one wish that Bjørnson and Grieg had completed the work. If you love mystery in music, great chorus, and wonderful sections for the soloists, you will greatly enjoy this work with special attention given to Scene Three and it's three sections given by the chorus and orchestra. This is some of the most original and reflective music I've heard from the pen of Edvard Grieg. In hearing it, I am immediately reminded of one work especially, inspired by the Orient: Ferdinand David's Le Desert, once available on a Capriccio CD from Germany. You may also be reminded from time-to-time of the manner in which Carl Orff wrote, especially in his Carmina Burana ... this mentioned to give you an idea of the mixture of orchestra, soloists and chorus.

I always ask myself the question whenever I hear a work of this grand magnitude: why isn't the work known more?
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

rogch
Posts: 442
Joined: Mon Jun 20, 2005 5:10 am
Location: Tønsberg, Norway

Post by rogch » Sun Feb 11, 2007 2:04 pm

I am often surprised by Grieg's diverse production. Unfortunately, Norwegians don't know more about Grieg than average classical music lovers
abroad. Sometimes i get the impression that the truisms about him ("minimalist", "national composer") are even more common in Norway than abroad. Abroad he is just a good composer, in Norway he is a national icon, probably not a good thing.
Roger Christensen

"Mozart is the most inaccessible of the great masters"
Artur Schnabel

Wallingford
Posts: 4534
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2003 3:31 pm
Location: Brush, Colorado

Post by Wallingford » Sun Feb 11, 2007 3:53 pm

I'll have to pull out my Per Dreier LP (on Unicorn) one of these days....I don't know if it's got all the stuff in Jarvi's recording. Noteworthy, too, is the fact that the folk hero Olav is again enshrined in Grieg's male-chorus-with-orchestra work, Landkjenning (Landsighting), Op. 31. THAT's a fine work, too.
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
--Paul Simon

Lance
Site Administrator
Posts: 17753
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 1:27 am
Location: Binghamton, New York
Contact:

Post by Lance » Sun Feb 11, 2007 5:44 pm

Wallingford wrote:I'll have to pull out my Per Dreier LP (on Unicorn) one of these days....I don't know if it's got all the stuff in Jarvi's recording. Noteworthy, too, is the fact that the folk hero Olav is again enshrined in Grieg's male-chorus-with-orchestra work, Landkjenning (Landsighting), Op. 31. THAT's a fine work, too.
Indeed, it is (Land-Sighting), but it is less than seven minutes in length. I didn't think it had that "oriental" quality I spoke of in my original post, which was somewhat reminiscent of Ferdinand David. As mentioned, the last three scenes alone are stand-alone great listening, all with chorus. I have found this to be some of Grieg's most original writing though, as he self-admits, the "Wagnerism" of the music inevitably creeps in. I didn't find that, myself. Truly, the work is worth a re-listening if you haven't heard it in a long time. This would-be "national opera" was never completed, but what remains gives us only a glimpse as to what it might have been if completed.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

Locked

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests