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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Irgens-Jensen Symphony, 5 Sept. 2011
This review is from: Jensen: Symphony In D Minor/ Passacaglia/ Air (Audio CD)
Naxos continues to plumb the depths of the musical ocean in search of hidden and often underrated talent. Here they have emerged with a Norwegian composer by the name of Ludvig Irgens-Jensen (1894-1969), previously unknown to me. In his native Norway, however, he seems to have made a name for himself with his Passacaglia of 1928, which took second prize in the Nordic section of the Schubert Centenary Competition. He is one of the few composers whose art has extended beyond music to poetry and painting as well (much like William Alwyn in England), and he travelled widely - to Berlin, Paris and Italy - so that his music sounds European rather than provincial.

The Symphony of 1942 is an abstract work, although it seems likely that it is somehow associated with Germany's occupation of Norway, and is aligned with a poem written by the composer entitled "Maelstrom" (printed in the liner notes). The symphony went through some considerable revision, but it is the original three-movement version that is recorded here.

The first movement emerges from the mists in a sombre mood, and gradually builds in tempo and dynamics into a gritty allegro. A moderato section, largely for strings with woodwind embellishments, brings a period of respite before a return to the more ominous mood of the opening. In the recapitulation the music of the introduction returns, transformed into a powerful, menacing statement of intent. The second movement begins calmly and peacefully. After a while, however, the music becomes more martial and dramatic, characterised by fanfares with a Mahlerian intensity to the writing. There follows a fugal section and a powerful, chorale-like ending.

The third movement, which was omitted from the revised version of the symphony, emerges with a soft drum-roll, a horn call, and a viola solo over pizzicato strings. Then follows a sturdy march theme based on material from the previous movement. There are moments of heroism in the form of brief brass fanfares, but also of brooding menace. The fast march music returns, leading to a great climactic chord, a general pause, and then a dying away to the depths from which the symphony emerged. This is a splendid symphony, leaving one to wonder why it has become so neglected.

The Passacaglia, at twenty minutes in length, is more than the simple form the title suggests; in fact the passacaglia theme does not emerge until five minutes into the piece. It begins slowly and solemnly on cellos, bassoons, and low brass, with baleful horn calls, but eventually gathers in pace and power, with some dramatic writing for strings, and fanfares as well as underlying chorales in the brass. The passacaglia theme itself is subjected to numerous variations in a variety of keys. The whole work climaxes in a splendid chorale which subsides into a subdued and ethereal coda.

The short Air (1959) is a comparatively late work which is self-explanatory. It is essentially a purely orchestral version of an earlier song to an ancient Japanese lyric poem, and the lyrical mood is maintained throughout in this instrumental rendering.

It may be too much to say that Irgens-Jensen has a highly distinctive and original voice, but he is certainly a competent technician who handles the orchestra with consummate mastery. His music is in an approachable tonal idiom, and undoubtedly of its time. I recommend this disc. Suck it and see: after all, at Naxos's budget price, what have you to lose?
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars New Gem, 5 Oct. 2012
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This review is from: Jensen: Symphony In D Minor/ Passacaglia/ Air (Audio CD)
This is a worthwhile CD from Naxos at the price. I felt that the symphony, although interesting in parts, did not sound like a well crafted work. The Passacaglia on the other hand is a more 'polished' work. Good on Naxos for recording work of this unknown composer.
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Jensen: Symphony In D Minor/ Passacaglia/ Air
Jensen: Symphony In D Minor/ Passacaglia/ Air by Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (Audio CD - 2011)
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