Tveitt: Variations on a Folksong from Hardanger; Piano Concerto No. 4 (Aurora borealis)

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COMPOSERS: Tveitt
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Variations on a Folksong from Hardanger; Piano Concerto No. 4 (Aurora borealis)
PERFORMER: Håvard Gimse, Gunilla Süssmann (piano); Royal Scottish NO/Bjarte Engeset
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555761
Another instalment in the ongoing revelation of Geirr Tveitt (1908-81), the heroic Norwegian nationalist composer (and piano virtuoso, as his keyboard-writing repeatedly testifies). Eighty per cent of Tveitt’s output perished in the fire that destroyed his home, but what survives – or has been reconstructed by willing hands – already seems a precious enough achievement. The Hardanger Folksong Variations for two pianos and orchestra (1939: the Naxos box inlay is ten years out with the date) was a crucial work in which Tveitt first turned to the singing traditions of his native fjord. It’s inventive and unfailingly attractive, but a bit garrulous: 30 minutes is perhaps rather too long for its material.

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The Fourth Piano Concerto (1947) is quite another matter: inspired by the colours and motions of the aurora borealis, it’s one of Tveitt’s most original and forward-looking scores. String clusters, trilling woodwind and glittering, hard-edged, iridescent piano textures deliberately seek to parallel and evoke the mysterious play of lights in the night sky, and the work ends in a slow finale of ecstatic, frosty beauty. Håvard Gimse is a soloist well attuned to the composer’s highly individual vision, while Bjarte Engeset directs an accompaniment of extraordinary textural interest. Highly recommended.