HALVORSEN Orchestral Works Vol 4
The previous releases in Chandos’s Halvorsen orchestral series juxtaposed shorter pieces with the symphonies and theatrical suites. Having run out of symphonies, the focus of the fourth instalment is more diffuse, the Norwegian Fairy Tale Suite lacking the gravity of those from Mascarade (Vol 1, 8/10) or Fossegrimmen (Vol 3, 6/11), with only the Symphonic Intermezzo from the incidental music to Kongen (‘The King’) providing anything remotely heavyweight.
The brace of Norwegian Rhapsodies make attractive opening items, colourful, deftly orchestrated showpieces based on local folk material not unlike the equivalent nationalist rhapsodies of, say, Alfvén or Enescu, presenting Halvorsen at his best. The Norwegian Festival Overture is more workaday but it and the Symphonic Intermezzo provide hints of the composer of larger-scale works. Yet Halvorsen was a natural tone-painter and story-teller, as the Dance Scene from the incidental music to Knut Hamsun’s Queen Tamara (styled ‘Oriental Character Piece’ and much admired by Grieg) and the Norwegian Fairy Tale Pictures (derived from music written for a children’s Christmas play) emphatically confirm.
The Bergen Philharmonic under Järvi once more provide beautifully idiomatic performances caught in rich Chandos sound (although on the advance copy I had the volume needed turning significantly higher than normal). The show is stolen, however, not by one of the orchestral works but by Halvorsen’s superb arrangement for violin and cello duo of the G minor Passacaglia from Handel’s seventh Harpsichord Suite of 1720. Melina Mandozzi and Ilze Klava deliver superbly, not as fast as some accounts (eg Wells Cunningham’s ‘Impossible Duo’ on YouTube) but it is a musical delight.