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David Hurwitz, July 2011

Were it not for his sprightly sense of rhythm and freshly folk-like melodic inspiration, Ole Olsen’s relentlessly cheerful music might strike you as just a touch insipid. As it is, these recognizably Norwegian works offer plenty of appealing inspiration. The Symphony, which dates from the 1870s, is not quite a typically conservative product of the Leipzig school (Olsen was there a decade after Grieg). His scoring for woodwinds and brass gives the work a distinctive tang, and despite lots of repetition in the outer movements the work’s effusive emotional climate carries the day.

Asgaardsreien, a splendid Lisztian tone-poem along the lines of that composer’s Mazeppa, is the highlight of the disc. Its 10 minutes pass by in a blur of color and excitement, and its conclusion is thrilling. The Trombone Concerto is so pleasant that you may forget that you are listening to—a trombone concerto. Olsen spent much of his adult life in charge of Norway’s military bands, and the experience shows. The performances here are excellent—as vivid and vital as the music itself. It would be very good to hear more of Olsen; apparently he wrote a lot, and he’s far more interesting (on evidence here) than, say, Svendsen or Sinding.

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