Norwegian composer Eivind Groven had a unique compositional voice. It was informed by his intimate knowledge of Norwegian folk music and folk instruments.
Groven came from a family of folk musicians and was an accomplished Hardanger fiddle player. While similar to a violin, there are many differences. These differences form the basis of the music played on the instrument — and the core of Groven’s style.
Groven’s two symphonies have few parallels in the classical world. Most composers incorporate folk elements into a classical idiom. Groven seemed to do the opposite.
The harmonies move in ways strange to classical audiences of the 1930s (when these works premiered), but very familiar to Norwegian folk musicians. The combination of strings reflects that open, thinner sound of Hardanger fiddles rather than the fullness of a string ensemble.
And yet these are big, organic, symphonic works. Groven spins his melodies out, continually developing them and adding complexity as the works unfold.
The Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra (not surprisingly) understands the foundation Groven built his symphonies on. And their performances enhance the energetic beauty of these works.
Groven’s symphonies have been recorded before — but never paired on the same release. I’ve never heard music quite like this before. I’m glad I did.
Eivind Groven: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2
Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra; Peter Szilvay, conductor