Halvorsen Orchestral Music Vol. 4: Still Going Strong

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

If this latest volume in Chandos’ ongoing series of discs devoted to the orchestral works of Johan Halvorsen is perhaps a tiny bit less interesting than its predecessors, it’s only because it contains no major work. Nevertheless, the bits and pieces we do get are pretty wonderful. The two Norwegian Rhapsodies are well up to the high standards of such works as Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsodies, Dvorák’s Slavonic Rhapsodies, and Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies in terms of instrumental color and melodic appeal. The Norwegian Bridal Procession (does any country have more of these than Norway?) may be Halvorsen’s best known piece—especially since it’s an orchestration of a piano piece by Grieg.

The other orchestral works are slight but invariably charming, with the exception of the more substantial Norwegian Fairy Tale Pictures, one of those appealing Romantic folk-influenced suites that Halvorsen and so many other composers wrote that deserve to be played in concert, and that you’ll never hear. After all, why play music that risks becoming popular and pleasing the audience when you can program yet another boring version of a war-horse? Never mind, thank God this stuff is available on disc, and in really fine performances by Neeme Järvi and the Bergen Philharmonic.

The one out-of-place item is the Passacaglia, a duet for violin and viola. It’s an impressive work, well played, but an odd choice squeezed in between the orchestral works. It does establish Halvorsen’s credentials as a “serious” composer capable of building larger musical structures, but then the symphonies do that, and given the tenor of the rest of the program, it isn’t really necessary. The sonics, as in the rest of the series, are excellent.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None for this coupling

    Norwegian Rhapsodies Nos. 1 & 2; Norwegian Bridal Procession; Passacaglia; Dance Scene from Queen Tamara; Symphonic Intermezzo from The King; Norwegian Festival Overture; Norwegian Fairy Tale Pictures

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