Tveitt: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 4 (Northern Lights); The Turtle

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WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 4 (Northern Lights); The Turtle
PERFORMER: Sveinung Bjelland, Håkon Austbø (piano), Ingebjørg Kosmo (mezzo-soprano); Stavanger SO/Ole Kristian Ruud
At last the prolific Geirr Tveitt is coming into his own. His opus list runs into the 300s though much is unpublished and much was destroyed in 1970 in a fire which consumed not only his house but much of his life’s work. He studied with Florent Schmitt, Honegger and Egon Wellesz (in his Vienna not his Oxford days); when his Fifth Piano Concerto was performed in Paris in the early 1950s, a French critic spoke of him as a ‘Norwegian Bartók’. But it is the suites of folk music arrangements, dazzlingly scored, that have made so strong a claim on the wider musical public, for he had real flair for the orchestra. The First Piano Concerto written in his early twenties has a natural fluency and a certain Gallic charm. The opening of The Turtle, a setting of a passage from Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, very well sung by Ingebjørg Kosmo, once again leaves no doubt as to the vividness of his orchestral imagination. Like England’s Robert Simpson, Tveitt was a keen amateur astronomer and the Fourth Concerto, inspired by the aurora borealis, shows his strong fascination with the heavens. It is an imaginative if diffuse work and wanting in concentration. But there are flashes of colour and inspiration that really reward investigation. Both piano soloists give persuasive and elegant accounts of the concertos and Håkon Austbø in particular is totally inside the idiom of No. 4. Finally, the disc boasts exceptionally wide-ranging recorded sound. Robert Layton