Pers Nørgard Symphonies Nordic Masterpieces

Sakari Oramo has paired Pers Nørgard’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, Norgard has charted his own path and created his own musical language that draws somewhat from both camps.

Nørgard 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 Nørgard is indeed one of the heirs of Sibelius’ ascetic.

The work has an icy coolness to it, mostly due to Nørgard’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 Nørgard indeed delivers an austere work that nonetheless is quite moving in parts (particularly the slow movement).

Nørgard’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, Norgard 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.

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

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

More Recent Posts

  • Classical Marathon 2014: Thank-you gifts

    DONATE NOW, and pick one of these 2014 Classical Marathon thank-you gifts: T-SHIRT: Long-sleeved WTJU T-shirt See image above. Sizes available: S-XXL Pledge: $100 CD: Dukas: Symphony in C; The Sorcerer’s Apprentice; La peri RTE National Symphony Orchestra; Jean-Luc Tingaud, conductor Pledge: $75 CD: Sing Thee Nowell New York Polyphony Pledge: $75 CD: Vivaldi: Concerti […]

  • Stephen Douglas Burton – Symphony No. 2 “Ariel”

    The “Ariel” subtitle of this symphony doesn’t refer to the lovable Disney mermaid. Rather, it’s the favorite horse of Sylvia Plath, which inspired one of her poems, and the title of the poetry collection Burton selected his texts from. Burton matches the often disturbing beauty of Plath’s poetry with richly scored post-romantic music. He also […]

  • WTJU’s Classical Marathon starts Dec. 1

    Get ready for seven days of wonderful classical music from December 1st – 7th. If you’re an avid listener or new to classical, WTJU’s Classical Marathon is your time to experience the breadth, depth, and beauty of classical music. Donate now! Marathon program schedule Premiums / Thank-You Gifts Directions & Parking info Fund Drive Office […]

  • Sing Thee Nowell — Yearround Pleasure

    New York Polyphony’s release “Sing Thee Nowell” is a little unusual. Despite its name, this is a release I’ll be enjoying throughout the year. The ensemble’s carefully chosen program includes many songs of the season, but few that have been done to death. Even the more familiar carols are heard in new and innovative arrangements. […]

  • Nov 22 Gather ‘Round: Tim & Mollie O’Brien/Kruger Brothers

    Gather ‘Round each Saturday night from 8-9 for WTJU Folk‘s concert series; both archived and live. There will be shows from The Prism Coffeehouse and VA Folklife archives mixed in with some from our announcers’ own libraries. And you never know when a live concert might pop up!   In honor of Thanksgiving, tonight’s two concerts […]

  • New Blues Adds – 11/18/2014

    New Blues News – 11/18/2014 Blues Adds: Magnus Berg – Cut Me Loose (Self-produced): Initial release by 18 year old Norwegian guitar wiz Magnus Berg shows off his great feel for a variety of blues styles on this mix of standards, such as “San-Ho-Zay”, “Kansas City Blues”, and a re-styled take on “Hoochie Coochie Man”, […]