Nordgren: Violin Concerto No. 4; Cronaca

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COMPOSERS: Nordgren
LABELS: Ondine
WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 4; Cronaca
PERFORMER: Wegelius CO/John Storgårds (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 873-2
Pehr Henrik Nordgren (b1944) is not well known, at least outside his native Finland, where he has spent most of his life in what Kimmo Korhonen’s valuable booklet note calls a village backwater, composing a large series of works for string orchestra or solo instrument and strings. Nordgren could in real life, for all I know, be the life and soul of the party. But to judge from the two recent compositions here, his music is hardly a bundle of fun.

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The Fourth Violin Concerto (1994), with string orchestra, reveals a brooding, expressionist style, predominantly slow, pitting lyrical lines against shifting harmonies with a fairly high dissonance level, but not avoiding triads, and with well-conceived string textures. Despite the tendency for the orchestra to become more active as the work progresses, an absence of obvious landmarks makes the progression of its half-hour, single-movement spans somewhat uncertain. The solo violin (played with skill and emotional commitment by John Storgårds, who also conducts) is dominant but never showy.

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Cronaca (1991) for violin, viola and strings (the title isn’t explained) is more Bartókian, somewhat less overwrought and, in its finale, more like Arvo Pärt. Contrast between the four movements makes the general shape clearer, but the soloists are far less prominent. Performances seem strong, but this is for lovers of quintessential Nordic gloom only. Keith Potter