WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2
PERFORMER: Bournemouth SO/Bjarte Engeset
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553898
If Edvard Grieg managed only a single symphony – promptly withdrawn with an injunction that it ‘must never be performed’ – and is best defined as a miniaturist of genius, his fellow Norwegians Johan Svendsen (1840-1911) and Harald Saeverud (1897-1992) proved far more at home in the larger forms. Svendsen followed an academic route similar to that of his almost exact contemporary Grieg, but absorbed more of the Germanic symphonic tradition during his years in Leipzig. His First Symphony (1867) was composed there at the time he completed his studies and shows a tangible influence of Schumann as well as a Scandinavian leanness that perhaps derives from Berwald. The Second Symphony of ten years later is a more personal utterance (though he had clearly discovered Wagner). Both works are played with verve on this bargain disc, an ideal opportunity for anyone keen on Scandinavian music to expand their horizons.
The latest disc in BIS’s Saeverud series pairs the later composer’s single Piano Concerto with the last of his nine symphonies, works characteristic of this ‘modern traditionalist’, their tonality tinged with a hard edge. The unforgiving landscape of Norway’s western coast is chillingly conjured up in the Stavanger SO’s account of the symphony and BIS’s prize pianist Ogawa makes light work of the Concerto’s piano part. Matthew Rye