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Valen: Orchestral Music Vol 3 / Smebye, Eggen, Stavanger SO


Release Date: 03/31/2009 
Label:  Bis   Catalog #: 1642   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Fartein Valen
Performer:  Einar Henning Smebye
Conductor:  Christian Eggen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stavanger Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Low Stock: Currently 3 or fewer in stock. Usually ships in 24 hours, unless stock becomes depleted.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



VALEN Symphony No. 4. Piano Concerto. 1 The Churchyard by the Sea. The Silent Island. Ode to Solitude Christian Eggen, cond; Einer Henning Smebye (pn); 1 Stavanger SO BIS 1642 (49:00)


Here at last is the third and final volume of the BIS series devoted to the orchestral works of Norwegian composer Fartein Valen (1887–1952). Anyone who has explored the first two volumes will know what to Read more expect. Valen’s music, based on his own synthesis of Baroque polyphony and dodecaphony creates a seemingly endless chromatic line while maintaining an elusive sense of tonality. It sounds vaguely like Berg, but the lines are longer and the layering of those lines uniquely Valen’s. Reviews of the first two volumes discuss his life and travails and can be found in Fanfare 32:1 and 32:6.


With Volume 3, we are entering some of the happiest times of Valen’s life. Two of the works, the tone poems Kirkegården ved havet , op. 20 (“The Churchyard by the Sea”), and La Isla de las Calmas , op. 21 (“The Silent Island”), were begun at the end of a delightful six-month trip to Majorca in 1932–33. Both are impressionistic works inspired by the beauty of the sea, churches, the flight of doves, and the emotions this beauty evoked. One will hear no fluttering of wings, but will feel the surge of joy at the power of the sea and at the reflection on the eternal.


These and the other orchestral works completed during his Mediterranean sojourn led to a Norwegian government composer’s salary granted in 1935. With his finances secure, he moved to the family farm on the western coast of Norway. Ode til ensomhete , op. 35 (“Ode to Solitude”), a reflection on the state of Europe in 1939, is a darker work, but Valen’s anguish at the thought of the world tottering on the brink of war is balanced against the peace that his faith and his solitude brought him. This emotional ambiguity is beautifully served by Valen’s expressive counterpoint.


The sanguine Symphony No. 4, op. 43, and the unpretentious Piano Concerto, op. 44, were the last works Valen lived to complete, written at the height of his hard-won but short-lived recognition. Both the Symphony and the Piano Concerto—commissioned by British pianist Alexander Helmann, an ardent supporter—were the result of Valen’s growing interest in the works of Mozart and Haydn. The Classical influence can be heard in leaner textures, a lighter character, and an austere simplicity. Only the last movement of the symphony, with its Baroque chaconne in the manner of Brahms’s last symphony, looks back at previous influences. Valen was never to hear either work performed and Helmann, who was injured in an accident that ended his career, never played the Concerto.


As in earlier volumes, Christian Eggen and the Stavanger Symphony provide outstanding performances, fully at the service of this extraordinarily expressive music. Einar Henning Smebye plays the Piano Concerto with the sensitivity and restraint this anti-virtuosic work requires. This is not easy music and it makes demands of the listener, but rewards with a cumulative peaceful beauty that I’ve found in no other body of work. Simax has an excellent set of the symphonies alone, with Aldo Ceccato conducting the Bergen Philharmonic (Simax 3101), that is more dynamic but less refined than the BIS. The Simax is, however, very difficult to locate, and, in any case doesn’t benefit from the extensive editing that Eggen has done to Valen’s ragtag manuscripts and doesn’t have the wonderful shorter works. The BIS is therefore the edition of choice. Urgently recommended.


FANFARE: Ronald E. Grames
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Works on This Recording

1.
Le cimetiere Marin, Op. 20 by Fartein Valen
Conductor:  Christian Eggen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stavanger Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1933-1934 
2.
La isla de las calmas, Op. 21 by Fartein Valen
Conductor:  Christian Eggen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stavanger Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934 
3.
Ode to Solitude, Op. 35 by Fartein Valen
Conductor:  Christian Eggen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stavanger Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
4.
Symphony no 4, Op. 43 by Fartein Valen
Conductor:  Christian Eggen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stavanger Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1947-1949; Norway 
5.
Concerto for Piano, Op. 44 by Fartein Valen
Performer:  Einar Henning Smebye (Piano)
Conductor:  Christian Eggen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stavanger Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949-1951; Norway 

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