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

  • Charles Neville Interview 4/19/2014

    Charles Neville, legendary member of the New Orleans Neville family and Saxophone player with the Neville Brothers, talks about his career in jazz, New Orleans Rhythm&Blues, and his career as a sideman in the 1960s and ’70s. Backing such Soul greats as OV Wright and Johnnie Taylor. You can download the interview here or stream […]

  • Tell Us A Tale Pledge Drive with Tom & Emily, Oct 11

    Tune in for a special Tell Us A Tale this Sunday afternoon, October 11, from noon til 2 as Peter welcomes Tom & Emily to share some tunes from their latest release, Goodnight Songs: A Celebration of the Seasons.  If you appreciate Tell Us A Tale and WTJU, please make a pledge at 434-924-3959, or […]

  • Banjo vs Fiddle with Seth Swingle & Aaron Olwell LIVE, Oct 8

    For years the banjo has crushed every other stringed instrument when it came to fundraising on WTJU. Multi-award winning Banjo player Seth Swingle, who has been part of several of these fundraising challenges, is getting ready to head off to Mali for continued studies of various West African instruments. First, however, Seth has thrown down […]

  • Jon Spear Band on Induced to Judder 10/8

    The Jon Spear Band hits our airwaves again for two hours of music on Induced to Judder’s Pledge Drive special. The band will be out in full force this coming Thursday. So be sure to tune in, catch this great group, and support local live music. Here’s a small taste of what you can look […]

  • Tell Us A Tale Fall Fund Drive, Oct 4

    Tune in for a special Tell Us A Tale this Sunday afternoon, October 4, from noon til 2 as Peter and Jen welcome in a local family to pick out some of their favorite stories and tunes.  If you appreciate Tell Us A Tale and WTJU as this longtime listening family does, please make a […]

  • Oct 2 Lambeth Live: A Look Back At The First Year (2013-2014)

    Lambeth Live invites a different musical group from around North America into your home each Friday night for an hour long concert live from just outside the WTJU studios at Lambeth Commons at the University of Virginia in front of a LIVE studio audience. There is Classical, Blues, Folk, Jazz, Rock, World and more. So […]