- Symphony No. 8
More than half a century separates Per Nørgård's "Symphony No. 1, Sinfonia austera" (1953-55), and his "Symphony No. 8" (2010-11), spanning a career that has seen great changes in music. Nørgård is simultaneously a traditionalist and an innovator, so it's not surprising to find that his music reflects many influences, from the symphonies of Jean Sibelius and Carl Nielsen, to serialism, spectral music, jazz, and beyond. Yet his own works show that he has thoroughly internalized his sources and made everything serve his personal expression, not any arbitrary system or ideology. The symphonies stand as signposts marking developments in his music, so where the "Symphony No. 1" shows the young Nørgård in search of an original voice, the "Symphony No. 8" seems like a grand summation of his methods and is as complete a statement as can be made by such an eclectic composer. The Vienna Philharmonic under Sakari Oramo plays with commitment, precision, and energy, and the performances are utterly compelling in the hybrid SACD format, which gives the orchestra incredible presence. This is the world-premiere recording of the "Symphony No. 8," which was recorded live at the Wiener Konzerthaus, but the excellent multichannel sound exposes few background noises.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Per Nørgård: Symphonies 1 & 8 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Sakari Oramo has paired Pers Nørgard's first symphony (1953) and his most recent symphony (2011) together, creating an interesting study in contrasts. To my ears, there's a certain Nordic quality to both works. Although the 8th is more dissonant and not as tonal in structure, neither work falls neatly into the post-romantic or atonal categories. Like Sibelius, Norgard has charted his own path and created his own musical language that draws somewhat from both camps. Nørgard greatly admired Sibelius. He corresponded with the older composer, shared some scores with him, and dedicated his first quintet to Sibelius (with permission). The Symphony No. 1 suggests that Nørgard is indeed one of the heirs of Sibelius' ascetic. The work has an icy coolness to it, mostly due to Nørgard's orchestration. His string writing, particularly, seems to favor the treble, giving it somewhat of an edge. The subtitle, "Sinfonia Austera," puts the listener on notice, and Nørgard indeed delivers an austere work that nonetheless is quite moving in parts (particularly the slow movement). Nørgard's 8th Symphony is the work of a mature composer thoroughly in command of his materials. Like the first, it doesn't necessarily fit into the current compositional schools. Instead, Norgard constructs his own sonic world that sounds contemporary without being trendy. The glittering chromaticism and unusual instrumentation make it a work both in and out of its time. If you purchase the SACD of this release, be sure to play it through an SACD player -- the greater detail I heard made a significant difference in the impact this symphony had on me. Pers Nørgard is well-regarded throughout Scandinavia. Perhaps this recording will help spread his reputation even further.
Per Nørgård is one of today’s leading contemporary composers. The Da Capo label has done a wonderful job championing his music, and it’s especially rewarding to see no less than the Vienna Philharmonic and conductor Sakari Oramo performing Nørgård’s first and latest symphonies. As other reviewers have noted, the influences of Sibelius and Nielsen are present. The contrast between the mysteriousness of Symphony No. 1 “Sinfonia austera” (1953-1955, rev. 1956) and the lightness of Symphony No. 8 (2010-2011) helps provide an enjoyable listening experience for those eager to try out unfamiliar Nordic orchestral music. Nørgård had become a pupil of Vagn Holmboe as a teenager, and his tutor soon after showed him a score of Sibelius’ First Symphony. Nørgård’s Symphony No. 1, written when the composer was in his 20s, was influenced by hearing a performance of Holmboe’s Symphony No. 8 “Sinfonia boreale” (“Northern Symphony”, 1953). The following year, Nørgård wrote a letter to Sibelius, complimenting his composing style and providing analysis. He also included with the letter his Quintet Op. 1. Sibelius wrote a favorable reply, and though Nørgård visited Sibelius at his home that same year, he did not have the courage to introduce himself. This story (which I paraphrased from the CD’s booklet) was, I thought, a bit of confirmation in the mention of Sibelius’ influence on Nørgård’s compositions. The disc itself is a Super Audio CD hybrid, so the sonics are clear and vibrant, and it can still be played on a conventional CD player. Highly recommended.