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Rikard NORDRAAK (1842-1866)
Songs and Piano Music
Track listing at close of review.
Helene Wold (soprano)
Eugene Asti (piano)
rec. Sofienberg Church, Oslo, 2015

Born in Oslo, Rikard Nordraak is best remembered for composing the Norwegian national anthem, although for some people he will be remembered as the somewhat sickly and needy figure in the film that tells of Grieg’s struggle to create a national music for Norway, the Song of Norway. A quick look at a certain online retailer points to this being the sole disc dedicated to the music of this neglected composer.

This disc presents 25 tracks of attractive, if hardly original, music. The influence of central European music can be felt from the very first track, the lovely Valse-Caprice; this influence, especially upon his piano music, probably dates from his studies in Berlin. There are however, pieces that are based upon his nationalism, with tracks such as Allegro and Scherzo Capriccio, the second of these has been designated his opus 3 and clearly shows Nordraak’s influence upon Grieg, whilst showing his passion and drive to produce a truly Norwegian music, who knows what he would have produced if he had not died of tuberculosis at the age of 23. His ideas are now seen as a major influence on Edvard Grieg’s own quest for a distinctive national music.

The feeling of nationalism is, I think, felt more deeply in his songs, many of which present texts by his cousin Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, who was played by ‘Harry Seagoon’ in the Song of the North. It is in these settings especially ‘Aftenstemning’ and ‘Over de høie Fjælde’ that the sense of nationalism and originality is felt most, with the text lending itself to this treatment. His songs show great tenderness and beauty as well as wonderful agility to bend the melody to the text. Many of Grieg’s own songs, especially his earlier pieces, show an influence of Nordraak, and a cross fertilisation between the two composers is clear.

The music is presented sympathetically with both Helene Wold, who also wrote the accompanying booklet notes, and Eugene Asti being in excellent form. They give us a clear performance, one that places the music first, and one which deserves the highest praise. The music is attractive and interesting, and this is brought out by the excellent recorded sound. We should be thankful to both performers and Lawo for bringing us this wonderful disc.

Stuart Sillitoe

Disc contents 

01) Valse-Caprice [2:27]
02) Aftenstemning [2:05]
03) Venskabs-Polka [2:16]
04) Wenn sich zwei Herzen scheiden [2:34]
05) Melodi [1:55]
Opus 2
06) I. Tonen [2:51]
07) II. Træet [1:32]
08) III. Solvejge [2:44]
09) IV. En underlig Vise [2:44]
10) V. Killebukken [1:02]
11) Allegro [2:34]
12) Scherzo Capriccio [8:17]
13) Taarnvægteren [1:09]
Opus 1
14) I. Jeg har søgt [2:27]
15) II. Romance – Ingerid Sletten [2:44]
16) III. Holder du af mig? [2:39]
17) IV. Romance – Liden Gunvor [3:16]
18) V. Over de høie Fjælde [4:15]
19) VI. Synnøves Sang [1:57]
Fire Dandse For Piano
20) I. Jagt-Polka [2:11]
21) II. Klingenberg-Polka-Mazurka [2:52]
22) III. Nora-Varsoviana [4:04]
23) IV. Flora-Polka [2:36]
24) Troubadour-Vals [1:58]
25) Spansk Sang [1:08]



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