Per Nørgard Symphonies Nordic Masterpieces

Sakari Oramo has paired Per Nørgård’s first symphony (1953) and his most recent symphony (2011) together, creating an interesting study in contrasts. To my ears, there’s a certain Nordic quality to both works. Although the 8th is more dissonant and not as tonal in structure, neither work falls neatly into the post-romantic or atonal categories. Like Sibelius, Nørgård has charted his own path and created his own musical language that draws somewhat from both camps.

Nørgård greatly admired Sibelius. He corresponded with the older composer, shared some scores with him, and dedicated his first quintet to Sibelius (with permission). The Symphony No. 1 suggests that Nørgård is indeed one of the heirs of Sibelius’ ascetic.

The work has an icy coolness to it, mostly due to Nørgård ‘s orchestration. His string writing, particularly, seems to favor the treble, giving it somewhat of an edge. The subtitle, “Sinfonia Austera,” puts the listener on notice, and Nørgård indeed delivers an austere work that nonetheless is quite moving in parts (particularly the slow movement).

Nørgård’s 8th Symphony is the work of a mature composer thoroughly in command of his materials. Like the first, it doesn’t necessarily fit into the current compositional schools. Instead, Nørgård constructs his own sonic world that sounds contemporary without being trendy. The glittering chromaticism and unusual instrumentation make it a work both in and out of its time. If you purchase the SACD of this release, be sure to play it through an SACD player — the greater detail I heard made a significant difference in the impact this symphony had on me.

Per Nørgård is well-regarded throughout Scandinavia. Perhaps this recording will help spread his reputation even further.

Per Nørgård: Symphony No. 1, Op. 13 “Sinfonia Austera”; Symphony No. 8
Vienna Phiharmonic Orchestra; Sakari Oramo, conductor
Dacapo SACD

More Recent Posts

  • New Jazz Adds – 2/10/2015

    New Jazz Adds – 2/10/2016 Jeff Coffin with Caleb Chapman’s Superband – The Inside Of The Outside (Earup): Widely recognized as one of the greatest music educators in the US, Caleb Chapman works with a number of bands and players in the form of the Crescent Super Band. This disc was organized, recorded and is […]

  • Gather ‘Round Winter Pledge Drive – YOU Pick The Concert

    Coming up Saturday night, February 27, from 8-9 (est) during WTJU’s Winter Pledge Drive, YOU get to help decide which archived concert from 1996 will air on Gather ‘Round. To vote, just click on the photo or name, and then just click on Send.  Whichever one receives the highest number of votes by 5 pm […]

  • Otis Clay Interview 2012

    When Otis passed in early 2016, the world lost one of the most expressive voices in all of Southern Soul. From his beginnings in Chicago through his time in Muscle Shoals and Memphis at Willie Mitchell’s Royal Recording studios, Otis was truly one of the great voices in American R&B. We talk to him about […]

  • Kathryn Caine & CEC Youth Members on WTJU, Feb 7

    Kathryn Caine and youth members of the Christ Episcopal Church will stop by WTJU this Sunday afternoon, February 7, around 12:30 (est) for a visit in advance of their February 12 concert.  The goal of this concert is to bring awareness to their talent as well as their outreach in the community with these  organizations. […]

  • Mipso Stop By Folk & Beyond, Feb 11

    Chapel Hill, NC quartet Mipso return to the WTJU Studios this Thursday, February 11, a little after 5 pm (est) for a visit to Folk & Beyond.  Later that evening you can catch them at The Southern in Charlottesville (details). Mipso last stopped by the station back in the fall for a Lambeth Live concert.