Scandinavian Festival (Richard Edlinger/ Rudolf Hentsel/ Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.550090)
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The second half of the 19th centurybrought a development of national feeling in many parts of Europe, coupled withan interest in folk music, which for some became a source of inspiration. InSweden a period in which the classical model of Vienna held sway was followedby the growing influence of German Romanticism and of the developing nationalmusic of Denmark and Norway. Hugo Alfven was one of the most important Swedishcomposers at the turn of the century. He was born in Stockholm in 1872 andstudied composition and the violin in the Conservatory there, and made a careerfor himself as a choral conductor and as director of music at UppsalaUniversity. The first of his three Swedish Rhapsodies, Midsommarvaka (MidsummerVigil), was written in 1903 and has remained among his most popularcompositions. The work is based on Swedish folk music and draws furtherinspiration from a peasant wedding.
Edvard Grieg, Scottish by remoter paternalancestry but completely Norwegian in sentiment and culture, was born in Bergenin 1843 into a family with a keen amateur interest in music. It was on theadvice of the violinist Ole Bull that he was sent, as a boy of fifteen, tostudy at Leipzig Conservatory, where initial disappointment at conservativemusical attitudes was tempered by the wealth of music to which he was nowexposed. It was through the encouragement of the Danish composer Niels Gadeand, more particularly, through his friendship with the young Norwegiancomposer Rikard Nordraak and the enthusiasm of Ole Bull that he turned hisattention to the folk music of Norway. He was to become the leading Romanticnationalist composer of his country, combining his career as a composer withthat of a pianist, and collaborating with the leading dramatists of the day,Bj?©rnson and Ibsen. The Norwegian Dances, Opus 33, were written in 1881 forpiano duet and later arranged for solo piano. The Lyric Pieces, Opus 54, formedthe fifth of ten such collections that Grieg wrote during the course of hislife, the first in 1867 and the last in 1901. Opus 54, written in 1891,consists of five short piano pieces, the first four of which Grieg orchestratedand published in 1904 as Lyrische Suite. They are characteristic of hishandling of harmonic and orchestral colour, using melodies and rhythms of clearnational origin. The four Symphonic Dances, published in 1898 and also arrangedby the composer for piano duet, again provided an opportunity for daringharmonic treatment of melodic material drawn from folk music.
Like his compatriot Grieg, ChristianSinding too studied at Leipzig Conservatory, in preparation, in his case, for acareer as a violinist. This initial aim he abandoned in favour of composition,enjoying at home, at least, a reputation only second to that of Grieg. He was aprolific composer, but for many his name is associated only with The Rustle ofSpring, a piano piece that he wrote in 1896 and published as one of a set ofsix such sketches, music that in orchestral arrangement suggests unusual meteorologicaldisturbance for the time of year.
Johan Svendsen, the son of an armymusician, followed his father's trade, employed in a military band as aclarinettist, but later embarking on an early career as an orchestralviolinist, before travelling to Leipzig to study at the Conservatory, where histeachers included Ferdinand David. He was to make a name for himself also as acomposer and as a conductor, for a time sharing the direction of concerts inChristiania (the modern Oslo) with Grieg. His international career and hisreputation as the most important Scandinavian conductor of his generation wonhim in 1883 appointment as conductor at the Royal Opera in Copenhagen, where hedied in 1911. His Norwegian Artists' Carnival, written about 1874, depicts thecarnival of the title in Rome, the city represented by an Italian folksong andthe Norwegian artists by music of their own country.
Jean Sibelius, Finnish by birth butSwedish, in common with others of his age and class, in early language andcultural background, is by far the most important figure in Finnish music, amajor symphonic composer in the wider context of later Romanticism. His firstmusical ambition was to become a violinist, but his gifts as a composer,fostered by Wegelius in Helsinki and by later teachers in Berlin and Vienna,ensured the path that his career would take. His music often draws directinspiration from the knowledge of Finnish literature and legend that he hadacquired at school and from the patriotic nationalism of his time. The Karelia
music was written in 1893 to illustrate a patriotic pageant, its inspirationthe south-eastern province of Finland, a region later absorbed into the SovietUnion.
CSSRState Philharmonic Orchestra (Kosice)
TheEast Slovakian town of Kosice boasts a long and distinguished musicaltradition, as part of a province that once provided Vienna with musicians. TheState Philharmonic Orchestra is of relatively recent origin and was establishedin 1968 under the conductor Bystrik Rezucha. Subsequent principal conductorshave included Stanislav Macura and ladislav slovak, the latter succeeded in1985 by his pupil Richard Zimmer. The orchestra has toured widely in Easternand Western Europe and plays an important part in the Kosice Musical Spring andthe Kosice International Organ Festival.
The Austrian conductor Richard Edlingerwas born in Bregenz in 1958 and directed his first concert at the age ofseventeen. In 1982 he completed his studies in conducting and composition atthe Vienna Academy, having by then already acquired considerable professionalexperience on the podium. He was the youngest finalist in the 1983 GuidoCantelli Conductors' Competition at La Scala, Milan, and since 1986 he has beenArtistic Director of the Capella Istropolitana, an orchestra with which he hasundertaken various European tours. Richard Edlinger has made recent appearanceswith the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, the Zagreb Philharmonic, the George EnescuPhilharmonic. the orchestra of La Scala, Milan, and the RTSI Orchestra inLugano. In 1987 he was appointed Music Director of the Kamptal Festival inAustria.