A chain of teacher-pupil relationships links the four composers in Håkon Austbø’s recital of quasi-modernist Norwegian piano music. As in his symphonies, Fartein Valen’s Four Pieces and Intermezzo poke around in the ashes left behind by the Second Viennese atonal conflagration – not without a certain impressive, disconsolate integrity, it may be said. Klaus Egge was evidently a more extrovert spirit, and his Patética Sonata – by some distance the most immediately impressive music on the disc – has something of the craggy quality of Copland’s Piano Variations. Less distinctive, or so it seems to me, is the sub-Messiaenic world of Finn Mortensen’s Sonata, while Rolf Wallin’s Seven Imperatives leave still less impression of a distinctive artistic personality at work.
As with everything I have heard him play, Austbø is a model of lucidity, teasing out poetry from between the arid stones in this austere yet not uninteresting repertoire. His booklet-note is correspondingly clear-sighted and Aurora’s recording quality is clear yet atmospheric.