Poul Rovsing Olsen was a Danish composer, performer, critic, and ethnomusicologist
link). His earlier music, as evidenced in the Variations Symphoniques
and the Piano Concerto, combined Bartůkian and twelve-tone qualities
with elements from his studies in Paris in 1948-49. Later his music
was influenced by both post-Messiaen French music and the results
of Olsenís studies in non-Western music.
The Variations Symphoniques was the composerís first major
orchestral work. There is some use of twelve-tone procedures but is
basically tonal, though austere. The individual variations are cleverly
subsumed into the larger whole and the overall impression is one of
great seriousness mixed with drama. These elements are also to the
fore in the Piano Concerto, a work of tremendous energy, in which
the piano and the orchestra are equal partners. Olsenís lyrical abilities
and his sense of humor are also evident here.
Fourteen years separate the Piano Concerto from the suite Au fond
de la nuit (In the depth of the night), a portrayal of a journey
into outer space which was quite topical when the piece was written.
The four movements describe the lift-off from earth (Líespace),
the giant red star Bťtelgeuse (cf. Holstís Op. 48), a second,
dead, star revolving on itself (Líastre mort), and the return
to earth (Retour). Here the musical style is more that of
Dutilleux than of Bartůk and shows far greater subtlety and instrumental
resource than evidenced in the earlier works.
Christina BjÝrkÝe is well-known for her recordings of Danish piano
and chamber music. She handles the wide changes of tempo and mood
in the Piano Concerto with great aplomb and subtlety. Bo Holten needs
little introduction as a conductor of Danish and other music. His
ability to build a performance from beginning to end and to differentiate
subtle changes of mood serves Olsenís music well. Little of Olsenís
music besides a Piano Trio is currently available, but this disc will
serve as a useful introduction to the composerís works.