About this Recording
GP800 - HUNDSNES, S.: Clavinata Nos. 1-7 / Piano Sonata No. 1 / Downtoned Beats (Mikkola)
English  Norwegian 

SVEIN HUNDSNES (b. 1951)
CLAVINATAS NOS. 1–7 • PIANO SONATA NO. 1 • DOWNTONED BEATS

The Norwegian composer Svein Hundsnes (b. 1951) has an oeuvre encompassing several styles. His orchestral works include a Flute Concerto, premiered by Vidar Austvik and the Stavanger Symphony orchestra, conductor Hannu Lintu; Haugtussa for soprano and orchestra, with Eir Inderhaug and the Bjergsted Sinfonietta, conductor Steinar Sætre (later: NRK production with the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, conductor Kjell Seim). The Trondheim Symphony Orchestra has premiered Symphony No. 1 (conductor Terje Boye Hansen) and Sinfonietta Romantica (conductor Friedrich Goldmann), and the Norwegian Youth Symphony Orchestra premiered Signale Orchestrale (conductor Kjell Seim). Hundsnes received the national Norwegian state scholarship for composers 1990–92, and subsequently taught music theory and composition at the University of Stavanger for two decades.

The Norwegian composer Svein Hundsnes (b. 1951) has an oeuvre encompassing several styles. His orchestral works include a Flute Concerto, premiered by Vidar Austvik and the Stavanger Symphony orchestra, conductor Hannu Lintu; Haugtussa for soprano and orchestra, with Eir Inderhaug and the Bjergsted Sinfonietta, conductor Steinar Sætre (later: NRK production with the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, conductor Kjell Seim). The Trondheim Symphony Orchestra has premiered Symphony No. 1 (conductor Terje Boye Hansen) and Sinfonietta Romantica (conductor Friedrich Goldmann), and the Norwegian Youth Symphony Orchestra premiered Signale Orchestrale (conductor Kjell Seim). Hundsnes received the national Norwegian state scholarship for composers 1990–92, and subsequently taught music theory and composition at the University of Stavanger for two decades. Haugesund Ungdomskorps, conductor Steinar Sætre, Cello Quartet, premiered by Svenska Cellokvartetten, revised in 2018 for CelloKaramell, and Violin Quartet, premiered by members of the Tromsoe Symphony Orchestra.

Svein Hundsnes has also written music dedicated to young musicians published by Norsk Musikforlag: Six Easy Pieces and Various Shades of Blue for piano and Four Easy Pieces for flute and piano. He has written music for an NRK TV production about the Norwegian author Arne Garborg. Hundsnes has been associate professor at the University of Stavanger for many years and received his doctoral degree on Tchaikovsky’s orchestral style in respect of counterpoint in 2014.

Clavinatas Nos. 1–7 • Piano Sonata No. 1 • Downtoned Beats

From the early days of art music until early 20th century it has been natural for most composers to use the songs or rhythms of the day as a point of departure for some of their own music, even in a symphonic context, almost without exception. At the outset of the 21st century one can notice a recurring tendency of this approach, as elements of jazz, rock or popular music are, to an increasing extent, more likely to be fused with contemporary art music, a tendency which is particularly notable among the younger generation of composers.

I have, throughout my career, frequently made use of such elements, combining them with contemporary or traditional developmental procedures, as either part of a symphonic development, or to found the basis for shorter movements. From a rhythmic perspective this feature is highly noticeable in the majority of the pieces and movements on this album.

Clavinatas Nos. 1–7

A Clavinata is a concentrated one-movement piece, which might sometimes have the intensity of a toccata, although the form as such is more complex and versatile. So far, I have written ten Clavinatas—composed between 2015 and 2018—the first seven of which are presented here. They are not movements within a cyclic form, but freestanding pieces.

The Clavinata designation is derived from the Hohner Clavinet, which is a very distinct electronically amplified analogue keyboard instrument, usually associated with funk music. Even so, a possible direct funk or jazz influence may vary from being obvious to being completely absent in these pieces.

This genre designation also hints at a sonata type of development, but this is only partly the case: these pieces usually have a symmetrical form—the thematic material is rarely dialectic, but rather, mostly derived from one small, inconspicuous cell. This tiny musical unit is subsequently developed into paragraphs which can always be traced back to the original motif or cell. The middle section is usually a slow variation derived from the same fundamental material.

Clavinata No. 1

The main parts of the opening have a toccata-like character. It begins with upwardly striving successive octave leaps in the right hand—challenging from a pianistic viewpoint—written in contrary motion to the left hand. These melodic octaves are later used as the central building material of the lyrical middle section.

Clavinata No. 2

Clavinata No. 2 is constructed from a compound syncopated theme, with a syncopated falling melodic second as the predominant motif throughout the work. The lyrical middle section is rooted in the turning, melodic triplet already found in the first bar. The thematic variation making up the middle section has been thoroughly prepared during the transition leading to it. Thematic imitative counterpoint is used frequently throughout the piece.

Clavinata No. 3

This highly syncopated Clavinata has its theme as well as its subsequent development rooted in a three-note motif which consists of one relatively long note followed by two shorter ones—the first one on the same pitch, then concluding with a descending melodic second (bar 3). Either the entire three-note motif, or just the last two notes, are used for developmental purposes throughout the piece. For example, only the falling second forms the melodic basis of the lyrical middle section.

Clavinata No. 4

Clavinata No. 4 deviates from the others on the basis of not being equally focused on one or two short cells, but rather on a lengthier theme, from which longer or shorter parts are developed. However, it still has the intensity, spirit and emotional ambiguity that characterise a Clavinata.

Clavinatas Nos. 5, 6 and 7

The listener will recognise the strategies of Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the ensuing Clavinatas. In Clavinata No. 5 two paired melodic seconds set out on a harmonic, rhythmic and texturally contrasted odyssey. A three-note motif dominates Clavinata No. 6 in rich, versatile variations. It differs from the others by not having a rhythmically intense opening section. Clavinata No. 7 has toccata-like main sections. An augmented variation of the motif forms a brief transition leading to a middle section which creates its own drama at the centre of the piece.

Piano Sonata No. 1

Piano Sonata No. 1 was written between 2008 and 2018. The comparatively dramatic outer movements utilise some of the characteristics found in the Clavinatas—while the middle movement consists of variations of timbre and very dense chords in high and low registers, setting the surroundings for an evolving, rolling, wavy motif, being developed in the middle registers.

Downtoned Beats

Downtoned Beats is a dance suite, in the sense that it brings rhythms from relatively current dance music into the realms of developmental art music. In this respect, however, I should point out that this suite stands further away from today’s dance music scene, than was the case with, for example, the dances of the Baroque suite in relation to the fashionable dance music of that period.

I. Cymbal Prelude and Distant Groove gives a fair hint of the elements involved in forming the movement.

II. Dark Bourrée and Intermezzo. This movement has little in common with the Baroque Bourrée, except for metre and its propulsive character. The central Intermezzo is the result of the motivic developmental process leading to it.

III. Scherzo. This scherzo is constructed on several short motifs, of which a persistent, syncopated, three-note motif constantly pops up and stands in the way of substantial development of the remaining material.

IV. Dance Noire. A medium slow groove in dark registers forms the basis of this movement, concluding the suite.

Svein Hundsnes


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