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Album at a Glance

Somewhat Atonal or DissonantOrchestralConcerto
Dacapo Record Label - Dacapo Records: Mission: to present a vast selection of Danish music, encompassing everything from contemporary electronic music to the earliest notes of the Middle Ages.
Release date: 2012-10-30


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Poul Rovsing Olsen: Piano Concerto; Symphonic Variations; Au Fond de la Nuit / Christina Bjørkøe, piano


Of currently available titles, this release makes three on the Dacapo label which include music of Poul Rovsing Olsen. It is the first of his orchestral oeuvre, which is considered his finest area of output. There are three significant works here, Olsen's Variations Symphoniques, Op. 27, the Piano Concerto, Op. 31 and Au fond da la Nuit for chamber orchestra. These premiere recordings are performed by the Odense Symphony Orchestra under conductor and composer Bo Holten with Christina Bjørkøe the fine piano soloist in the concerto.

Danish composer Poul Rovsing Olsen (1922-1982) was a noted ethnomusicologist who also held a law degree from Copenhagen University. He studied composition in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen and produced 85 numbered works in most every genre from songs and chamber music to operas, ballets and orchestral works. Although he had experimented with the twelve-tone technique around the time of writing both the Symphonic Variations and the Piano Concerto, both works remain products of conventional tonality, albeit an extended version. These two pieces are also characterized by rhythmic intensity, colorful - if somewhat dark - orchestration and a certain open-ended feeling of suspense, effectively achieved through protracted sections of development (the master of this technique being Sibelius).

While these first two works on the program (both from the mid-50's) are from quite similar sound worlds, the concluding Au Fond de la Nuit (In the depth of the night) of 1968 shows an evolution to the composer's style, with more kaleidoscopic coloration, an expressive austerity, agitated rhythmic patterns and a tonal backdrop which is significantly more modern. His music has become more French sounding here, and the influence of Messiaen is unmistakable. In four movements, the piece describes a journey into space and was premiered 'just six months before man took his first steps on the Moon in July 1969' (Teresa Waskowska from the album notes).

There is quite a bit of music on this CD that I would love to share with you, but in the end, decisions must be made. I hope you enjoy the opening to Variations Symphoniques (please pardon the fade), which is fairly representative of about three-quarters of the album, the remaining quarter (Au Fond de la Nuit) sounding more on the modern side. I've spun this CD many times - these are substantial and intriguing works, given exceptional performances and captured in excellent sound.