Symphony in D Minor (1942)/Ludvig Irgens-Jensen (1894-1969)
September 22, 2011
Naxos has always been a pioneer in releasing new material and Jensen wrote a wonderful three movement Symphony in D Minor in 1942 which is a reflection on his experiences with World War II. Jensen, a 20th century Norwegian composer, was greatly admired by Stravinsky and Toscanini and now this reviewer who had never listened to him before.
During the course of its short life the symphony has gone through changes, some quite major including the elimination of the third movement, any reference to the war, and changes by then conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic Gruner – Hegge. Bjarte Engest, conductor of the work, has chosen to perform the original 1942 version with the exception being the original ending of the second movement only recently discovered and too late for this recording. Jensen composed the poem Maelstrom and this is what the symphony is based on. Below I site the poem.
The glint of breakers far out at sea,
Drifts of foam in long floes.
You walk on the shore-and your foot treads
on the remnants of old wrecks.
Floods from the fells, avalanches into dales
-everything that happens is wrong.
Here stood a farmstead in hope of shelter
-you will never find it again
Yes, avalanches must break and hurtle down
-the earth’s blood is young!
Listen to the savage hymn of the hidden powers:
We have never had peace.
Now you understand the pain of humanity.
Through centuries of darkness, cold as the grave,
We kept a sacred candle burning:
the dream that kindles in crushed spirits
the dream that blazed as generations suffered,
the dream as strong as life itself,-
the dream of peace.
For it is a dream- but is it more?
Look around you, good brother,
And tell us what you see:
They are our faithful mothers.
Flood and avalanche,
you see them here,
you see them in yourself, in me.
Brute force, butchery and murder of the spirit
you see amongst your brothers.
The first movement, an allegro, begins on a somber note with the horns offering a melody. The orchestra offers a disturbing passage conveying a struggle. You can hear the maelstrom of the ocean somewhat like Sinton’s The Island. The key changes to a major one offering happiness. The main theme is repeated again by the horns and great turmoil follows with urgency from the strings and dissonance from the brass along with another statement of the main theme. One can feel the storm! The sixteen minute movement ends on a measure of urgency.
The second movement the andante begins as an elegy might very solemn and reflecting. There is an exchange between the woodwinds and strings. As the movement continues it becomes increasingly more intense in nature with loud statements from the brass. It is somewhat choral sounding without the chorus. One can hear a similar feel to what Beethoven did in the third movement of his ninth symphony.
The third and final movement begins quietly but becomes more intense. The romantic theme from the second movement is repeated but as a loud motif from the brass. This movement is one of fate and at the end there is a catastrophe-chord.
I must congratulate Engeset on a well written concise set of liner notes that truly brought a greater understanding of the work. The recording was bright and vivid and all parties seemed to have a complete understanding of the work.
1… Allegro (16:40)
2… Andante (12:34)
3… Andante lugubre (14:45)
The CD also contains his Passacaglia and Air.
Naxos CD# 8.572312