Nørgård: 8 Symphonies

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‘I feel each of my symphonies is a whole continent in itself,' one of the greatest symphonists of our time, the Danish composer Per Nørgård...

‘I feel each of my symphonies is a whole continent in itself,' one of the greatest symphonists of our time, the Danish composer Per Nørgård (b. 1932) has said. His music stems from an insatiable urge to explore the phenomena of the world and the possibilities of music, and his eight symphonies stand as milestones over the course of six decades. This 4 album set contains spellbinding performances of his symphonies that harvested a bumper crop of critical superlatives on their initial release, providing a fascinating insight into the symphonic thinking of Nørgård, the composer of the famous ‘infinity principle’.

REVIEW:

Per Nørgård’s eight symphonies have just been gathered into a four-disc boxed set by the Danish Da Capo label. Although these recordings with three different conductors and orchestras were released separately from 2009 to 2016, this is the first time that all of Nørgård’s symphonies have been packaged in one box. Each disc is programmed as originally issued, so you’ll have to skip around from CD to CD to sample the cycle in the order in which it should be heard, for there is an illuminating, at times mind-bending, progression at work.

Nørgård’s cycle starts with an impressive First Symphony (“Sinfonia austera,” 1953–1955) that is said to reflect his early Sibelius influence...the symphony hangs onto tonality for dear life as the anxiety tightens.

In the Symphony No. 2 (1970–1971), Nørgård’s personality begins to bloom. He had just invented what he called the “infinity series,” a form of serial composing based on intervals and less forbidding to the ear than Schoenberg’s 12-tone system. This one-movement symphony begins with a single sustained tone that splits into pitches hugging close to, and colliding with, each other, sometimes in quarter tones. The whole thing is quite beautiful, drifting along while maintaining a steady pulse.

The Symphony No. 3 (1972–1975) is the great one, swapping the steady flow of the Symphony No. 2 for a series of explosions of color. Eventually it settles into a new, fantastical, pleasurable, sometimes colliding wonderworld of sound, with voices gradually creeping into the mixture and taking over the second movement, which luxuriates for nearly 26 minutes. It even includes a brief outbreak of Afro-Cuban dance rhythms (how did he manage to slip that in?) before everything vaporizes as if in a dream.

From this point onward, Nørgård’s ideas become more rigorous and somewhat more succinct. The short Symphony No. 4 (1981) is in another sound world, one of understated, underlying anxiety in the opening movement that bursts out in thumping drums, dissonant strings, and brass blasts in the second (and last) movement, where for the first and only time in the cycle, you can hear a quote from Nørgård’s countryman Nielsen — a motif from the latter’s own Symphony No. 4.

In the Symphony No. 8 (2010–2011), the mood and textures suddenly lighten with twinkling points of brightness from the glockenspiel, playful winds, and caressing strings, if not a real tonal center that at one point dwindles down to a single line on the piano. Given Nørgård’s advanced age, this would appear to be his last symphonic word, although who knows? In any case, the orchestral playing and sound on these discs are top-notch, making this the obvious go-to choice for exploring in depth the works of one of our few remaining living symphonists.

--San Francisco Classical Voice (Richard S. Ginell)

Past praise of previously released volumes included in this set:

Symphonies Nos. 1 & 8 / Oramo, Vienna Philharmonic:

The premiere recording of Nørgård’s latest symphony is a rewarding listen, the Vienna Philharmonic bringing their perfection to his fascinating and attractive sound world.

-- Gramophone (Editor's Choice, August 2014)

Symphonies Nos. 2 & 6 / Storgårds, Oslo Philharmonic

There’s something almost miraculous about the way Finnish conductor John Storgards has brought this music so finely and compellingly into focus. In the Second, all is ghostly detached sounds, but then a melodically tight little figure in running notes starts to unfold, somehow transforming yet remaining essentially the same. The effect isn’t coldly cerebral: it feels natural, instinctual – as do the exultant brass and bells climaxes that grow out of it.

-- BBC Music Magazine

Symphonies Nos. 3 & 7 / Dausggard, Danish National Radio Symphony

This is wonderfully approachable, glowing music that includes everything from clusters of microtones to Latin American rhythms and languorous melodies.

-- The Guardian (UK)



Product Description:


  • Release Date: July 22, 2022


  • UPC: 636943400210


  • Catalog Number: 8204002


  • Label: Dacapo


  • Number of Discs: 4


  • Period: Contemporary


  • Composer: Per Norgard


  • Conductor: Thomas Dausgaard, John Storgards, Sakari Oramo


  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra


  • Performer: Ulla Munch, Danish National Conc



Works:


  1. Symphony No. 1 'Sinfonia austera'

    Composer: Per Nørgård

    Ensemble: Vienna Philharmonic

    Conductor: Sakari Oramo


  2. Symphony No. 2

    Composer: Per Nørgård

    Ensemble: Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra

    Conductor: John Storgårds


  3. Symphony No. 3 'Twilight'

    Composer: Per Nørgård

    Ensemble: Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Danish National Vocal Ensemble, Danish National Concert Choir

    Conductor: Thomas Dausgaard


  4. Symphony No. 4

    Composer: Per Nørgård

    Ensemble: Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra

    Conductor: John Storgårds


  5. Symphony No. 5

    Composer: Per Nørgård

    Ensemble: Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra

    Conductor: John Storgårds


  6. Symphony No. 6 'At the End of the Day'

    Composer: Per Nørgård

    Ensemble: Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra

    Conductor: John Storgårds


  7. Symphony No. 7

    Composer: Per Nørgård

    Ensemble: Danish National Symphony Orchestra

    Conductor: Thomas Dausgaard


  8. Symphony No. 8

    Composer: Per Nørgård

    Ensemble: Vienna Philharmonic

    Conductor: Sakari Oramo