Sounds of Scandinavia

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The differences are bigger than the similarities in these three very different recordings of Scandinavian Orchestras.

From Denmark:
Niccolo Castiglioni (1932-1996): La Buranella, Altisonanza, Salmo XIX
Denmark Radio Syphony Orchestra/Giandrea Noseda (Chandos)

The composer Niccolo Castiglioni is perhaps not as well-known as his Italian post-war colleagues Luciano Berio and Luigi Nono. If you don’t know the composer you might believe this is unknown baroque music with somewhat unusual orchestration, as the firs composition, La Buranella.

The work is, however, written in 1990, as a tribute to the Italian baroque composer Baldasare Galuppi.

The two next compositions, Altisonanza and Salmo XIX, represent a strong, modern contrast. The interpretations by the conductor and orchestra with choir are impressing.

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“… The simplicity of La Buranella presents a sharp contrast to Altisonanza(1990-92), a three-movement, 20 minute work with, at its centre, a Sarabanda pointing to Castiglioni’s predilection for old forms. The music, though, is thoroughly contemporary, rich in energy and vibrancy, rhythmically complex and brilliantly orchestrated, with a hint of Messiaen about it in the suggestions of birdsong but with a creative personality of its own. The setting of Psalm 19 ratchets up interpretative complexity to another level altogether … a powerful, fervent, haunting experience when performed as compellingly as it is here.”

Geoffrey Norris – Gramophone magazine – June 2015
From Norway:
Leos Janacek (1854-1928): Orchestral Works, Vol. 2
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Edward Gardner (Chandos)

Mystical and humoristic Janacek is here interpreted by the newly assigned conductor of BFO, Edward Gardner, which began to explore the Czech composer last year.

This issue gives us an interesting bundle of orchestral works from Janacek’s midlife compositions, dominated by Slovenian folk music. Most interesting is the orchestral poem Taras Bulba, inspired by the Gogol novel.

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Both Taras Bulba, Blanik and the symphony Danube are inspired by East European poems and stories. This is musical storytelling of high quality.

From Sweden:
Carl Nielsen: Symphonies nos. 2 and 6.
Royal Philharmonic Sweden/Sakari Oramo (BIS)

The Danish composer Carl Nilsen is perhaps most known for his six symphonies. Here two of them are performed by perhaps the world’s best Carl Nielsen interpreter.

Carl Nielsen, born a short generation after Edvard Grieg, mastered the big orchestral format, and all his symphonies have now been recorded by Kungliga Filharmonikarna, as the orchestra is named in Swedish.  All recordings have received startling reviews.  The orchestra’s Finnish conductor brings the orchestra to new heights; the humoristic parts become happy listening, the tragic parts become real sad, and the melodic themes are heavenly.

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“Oramo certainly pushes his orchestra to the limit, and yet the first movement never seems rushed or overdriven. Indeed, there’s a sense that the conductor is playing the music for all it’s worth, and his willing band are well up to the challenge,” wrote Dan Morgan in Musicweb International

If you want to familiarize yourself with Carl Nielsen, this is a recording for you.

Feature image (on top) Stockholmsfilharmonikarna, photo Jan Olav Wedin

Sounds of Scandinavia, written by Tor Kjolberg