Nørgård Symphony No 6; Terrains Vagues

Powerful advocacy for Nørgård’s most recent large­scale symphonic works

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Nørgård Symphony No 6; Terrains Vagues

  • Symphony No 6, 'At the End of the Day'
  • Terrains Vagues

Per Nørgård’s symphonies do not form a smoothly evolving or cohesive cycle‚ so it is no surprise that the Sixth (1998­99)‚ composed to mark the millennial year‚ should prove a rather different prospect from the Fifth (1990). No 6 is a typical Nørgård symphony in its simultaneous process of exposition‚ development and recapitulation and use of a huge orchestra‚ but untypical in that – for the first time since the First (1954) – something approaching a conventional symphonic (here moderate­slow­very fast) layout is discernible. The second and third movements play continuously‚ together matching the size as the first (compare this with the bipartite designs of Nos 3 and 4). The opening Moderato‚ not a conventional sonata design‚ possesses a real symphonic thrust while the Allegro energico finale’s eruption from the central Lentissimo is brilliantly achieved in its inevitability. The instrumentation is also crucial‚ with enlarged tenor and bass sections including bass trumpet‚ double­bass clarinet‚ trombone and tuba and‚ in the Lentissimo‚ four cors anglais. As Jørgen Jensen points out in his notes‚ these are used give weight to an independent lower realm of activity that counterpoints the brighter upper layers‚ another example of the ever­present dualism running throughout Nørgård’s music.
Nørgård has said that this is to be his final symphony: the subtitle and the bass drum’s final ppp stroke may seem valedictory‚ but the emergence of completely new material in the later stages suggests otherwise. So‚ too‚ does the coupling‚ Terrains Vagues (2000; the title suggesting both ‘mysterious’ and ‘wave’ landscapes) which develops the material from No 6’s close. This more fantasia­like piece‚ which includes minor but important parts for the accordion and the maniacal ticking of three metronomes‚ unfolds more spontaneously‚ as if the composer intentionally is going where the music takes him rather than bending it to his will as in the Symphony.
Perhaps the effort of writing the Sixth in the way that he did required this more unbuttoned response; if so‚ Terrains Vagues is the perfect foil‚ making an excellent coupling (it would be instructive to hear the two side­by­side in concert). The performances are superb‚ Dausgaard handling both scores expertly‚ and the recording is sumptuous and vivid. True‚ both scores need work to get to know‚ but the rewards are undeniable. Strongly recommended.

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