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Sullivan
American Record Guide, December 2007

Grieg and his progeny are represented in this charming and colourful program. The center-piece, Klaus Egge's 1944 Concerto for piano and strings

, exploits modal harmony in ingenious ways -earthy lyricism spiked with juicy dissonance. The most ravishing music is in the slow movement, where a dreamlike song descends from above in the high strings and piano treble and works its way through Egge's luscious tapestries of sound before burssting into a Bartokian scherzo and an elaborate fugal final.

There are also beautiful monments in the slower sections of Egge's 3 Pieces and Sonata 4 (The Dream Ballade). The closing pieces, Alf Hurum's Aquarelles 2 and Geirr Tveitt's Wedding Bells, recall the lyrical grace of Grieg's Sun Fair and the Snake King, the little gem that opens the program.

Havard Gimse is a master of this repertory, as attested by his recordings of Norwegian music on Marco Polo and Naxos; the solo pieces in particular have sensitive phrasing and a striking, bell-like sonority. The strings of the Trondheim Soloists make a big, robust sound. The concert was recorded in Norway, the rest in Suffolk, UK; the latter has a slightly warmer acoustic, giving Gimse's piano a deep velvet sound. An illuminating and highly enjoyable release.



Gramophone, October 2007

Folk heritage has been either a blessing or a curse to composers down the years, whether of national "epics" such as the Norse sagas or the Kalevala, or the treasury of folk music that all cultures possess. One composer for whom it has been an occasional blessing is the Norwegian Klaus Egge. A new Naxos release of Norwegian piano music performed by Havard Gimse features three folk­inspired works, including his First Sonata (1935) and Second Concerto (1944). The latter is subtitled "Symphonic Variations and Fugue on a Norwegian Folktune" and a fine set it makes. Scored for piano and strings, it is based on Solfager og Ormkangen ("Sun-Fair and the Snake King"), which Grieg based the 12th of his 25 Norwegian Folksongs and Folktunes, Op 17 (it opens Gimse's programme). Telemarkian fiddle-playing is evoked in Egge's brief and enjoyable Halling Fantasy (1939) but the most enthralling item is his First Sonata, Draumkvaedet, inspired by the great Norwegian poem (a kind of cross between The Divine Comedy and the Kalevala) telling of a young man's visions of Heaven and Hell, Armageddon and the Last Judgement. The structure of the sonata is musically based but its four movements derive both their atmosphere and material from the poem and several of the traditional tunes that accompanied its recitation. Gimse's splendid recital is completed by three folk-inspired miniatures by Sverre Bergh, Alf Hurum and Geirr Tveitt.



Gramophone, October 2007

Folk heritage has been either a blessing or a curse to composers down the years, whether of national "epics" such as the Norse sagas or the Kalevala, or the treasury of folk music that all cultures possess. One composer for whom it has been an occasional blessing is the Norwegian Klaus Egge. A new Naxos release of Norwegian piano music performed by Havard Gimse features three folk­inspired works, including his First Sonata (1935) and Second Concerto (1944). The latter is subtitled "Symphonic Variations and Fugue on a Norwegian Folktune" and a fine set it makes. Scored for piano and strings, it is based on Solfager og Ormkangen ("Sun-Fair and the Snake King"), which Grieg based the 12th of his 25 Norwegian Folksongs and Folktunes, Op 17 (it opens Gimse's programme). Telemarkian fiddle-playing is evoked in Egge's brief and enjoyable Halling Fantasy (1939) but the most enthralling item is his First Sonata, Draumkvaedet, inspired by the great Norwegian poem (a kind of cross between The Divine Comedy and the Kalevala) telling of a young man's visions of Heaven and Hell, Armageddon and the Last Judgement. The structure of the sonata is musically based but its four movements derive both their atmosphere and material from the poem and several of the traditional tunes that accompanied its recitation. Gimse's splendid recital is completed by three folk-inspired miniatures by Sverre Bergh, Alf Hurum and Geirr Tveitt.



Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, August 2007

Draumkvaedet (The Dream Ballad) is a 52 verses long poem, telling the story of Olav who slept from Christmas Eve to Epiphany and in his dreams visited the Kingdoms of the Dead, Hell and Heaven. It was sung to traditional tunes and was regarded as a medieval ballad but in reality it was written in the 1890s by Moltke Moe, who was the first Norwegian professor of Folklore. His pretensions were to reconstruct something from the eleventh and twelfth centuries. His sources were however much younger, actually from the 1840s and Moe altered and amended the texts to achieve a coherent narrative. It was very popular during the 20th century and many composers set the text while others used the traditional tunes associated with the ballad. Klaus Egge was one of them in his large Piano Sonata No. 1 from 1933. It is in four movements and the first has a slow introduction, where three melodies are presented, which are the basis for a fantasy on them, as well as on other folk-tunes, in the following movements. The slow movement has an improvisatory feeling, where Egge explores the harmonic possibilities of the thematic material. The short third movement, Scherzo infernale, is a devilish but still restrained interlude before the dancing finale, based on the two-beat Halling dance. This is both atmospheric and invigorating music in a mainly tonal language.

He returned to the Halling dance some years later in the Halling Fantasy, which is altogether harsher, Bartók-influenced. It is a two-part invention with one part for each hand. In the Piano Concerto from 1944 he has moved further onto the path of dissonance. Strictly speaking it isn’t a concerto at all, which also the subheading says: Symphonic variations and Fugue on a Norwegian Folktune. Though written as one continuous piece of music one can distinguish four movements: the first four variations constitute the first movement, the next two are the slow movement and a seventh variation is the scherzo, while the motoric fugue is an insidious finale. It is rhythmic and vital music and I don’t believe many will be put off by the partly dissonant language. On the disc these three works are played in reversed order and it would have been a better idea to present them chronologically to better demonstrate the development of Egge’s art. There is a point, however, in the chosen order, where the disc opens with a short piece by Grieg, an arrangement of the folk melody Solfager og Ormekongen, since Egge uses the same melody, albeit slightly altered, for his variations.

The remaining pieces are also based on folk tunes and are attractive. Alf Hurum may not be a household name, not even in Norway. He is probably more known in Honolulu where he moved after marrying a Hawaiian woman and there he founded the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra.

The last piece, which is a first recording, has an amazing background story. Håvard Gimse has recorded several discs with Geirr Tveitt’s music and on hearing them Ragnhild Nordsjø, who worked with Tveitt, sent this composition to Håvard. It was composed by Tveitt in half an hour on 24 September 1963, sitting in a car outside the church where Ragnhild was to be married. A better wedding-present is hard to imagine! It is beautiful and folk song like but it is Tveitt’s own work and Håvard Gimse plays it delicately – as he does everything on this disc. Having heard him live on several occasions as well as having a number of his discs I knew what was to expect and he is up to his usual high standards, having an unerring sense for the musical phrase. In the Piano Concerto he is excellently partnered by the renowned Trondheim Soloists, directed from the cello by his younger brother Øyvind.

I suppose most readers are unfamiliar with the majority of this music but this disc only shows what many already suspected: that Norwegian music is much more than Grieg. The recording is first class and David Gallagher’s liner notes give much valuable information on the music.




John Sunier
Audiophile Audition, July 2007

An interesting collection of Norwegian piano music of the 20th century, with a focus on its assimilation of folk music. The solo piano works are broken up by the 20-minute concerto for piano and string orchestra, whose subtitle is "Symphonic Variations and Fugue on a Norwegian Folktune". Egge, who lived until 1979, was influenced in his later incorporation of folk music into his compositions by his family knowing many local folk-fiddlers. The main folk theme of the concerto was also set by Grieg, Tveitt and others. It is a haunting mountain melody translated as Sun-Fair and the Snake-King. The concerto is in one movement but with four pseudo-sections within it corresponding to a four-movement concerto. The Piano Sonata is in four actual movements and two minutes longer. It is based on a famous Norwegian song with 52 verses in the style of a medieval ballad.

The remainder of the program continues the theme of the response of Norwegian piano music to the fertile folk music culture of Norway. A two-minute piece by Grieg opens the CD since it is a different arrangement of the same melody used in the Egge Piano Concerto. A short fantasy by Egge and two other short works illustrate the influence of Norwegian folk-fiddling. The closing selection is a 1963 folk-flavored piece, Wedding Bells, just discovered in the opera of Geirr Tveitt.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2007

Born in Norway in 1906, Klaus Egge played a major role in many aspects of the nation's musical life, his work as a composer winning him many admirers, though internationally he is not known. During his middle-period, of which the 1944 Second Piano Concerto is a good example, he developed a technique of combining melodic material within the precepts of serialism, the results a likeable modernity added to a conventional tonality. In one movement, and scored for piano and strings, it uses a Norwegian folk melody as its fundamental material, exploring a full range of of string sonorities and the technical brilliance of the soloist. The result I much enjoyed, while the disc also contains the same folk melody in a setting by Grieg. You will find even less difficulty getting to know the 1933 First Piano Sonata, a score in four movements and redolent with folk inspiration. Yet it seems that Egge was still on his journey to achieve his full potential. The remainder of the release explores Norwegian piano music of the 20th century, the undoubted gem being the tinkling Wedding Bells from Geirr Tveitt, here receiving its World Premiere recording. The playing of Havard Gimse is beautifully detailed, the orchestra's intonation so secure.






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9:56:31 PM, 10 July 2014
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