January 31, 2010


(Johan Svendsen - Contemporary of Grieg, but less well known)

The music of Johan Svendsen has probably gotten more familiar to audiences now that it was say, 40 years ago. A contemporary of fellow Norwegian Edvard Grieg, he was most prominently known for his Romance for Violin and Orchestra and not a lot else.

After World War 2 the Society of Norwegian Composers sought to spread the word about Svendsen, and many other Norwegian composers for that matter. They issued a series of 78 discs through the Norwegian Office Of Cultural Relations, featuring a number of less familiar composers of the 19th and early 20th centuries, performed by some of the leading orchestras and performing bodies in Norway. The result was a fascinating set of discs which, sadly were not commercially available, even at the time of their release. They were destined for educational institutions and radio stations in an effort to promote culture and not garner sales.

One of those recordings was the 2nd Symphony of Johan Svendsen, with the Oslo Philharmonic conducted by their music director Odd Gruner-Hegge. Hegge had been music director of the orchestra in the late 1920's to early 1930s when he left and later resumed his association with the orchestra from 1945-1952. There is no actual date on the discs and no information regarding sessions. I am assuming it's 1946, but it could be as late as 1948. In any event, it's a rare fist recording of a seldom performed symphony played by an orchestra the composer was closely associated with.

Nice combination, if you ask me.

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