La sinfonia nordica degli anni Cinquanta/ Nordic symphony in the Fifties.
- Holmboe's 8th would have its place
here (but I understand that you added
it already). Another landmark would
be Tubin's 6th, although I personally
slightly prefer his 8th. The Norwegian
composer Harald Saeverud (1897-1992)
also was a highly original personality.
I like his 7th and 9th symlphonies very
much (the 9th might be superior in purely
musical terms), but I never heard his 8th,
which was completed in the 1950s (it has
been released by a Norwegian label lately).
Although this may seem far-reaching, New
Zealand's Douglas Lilburn (1915)
undoubtedly is a quasi-Nordic composer,
especially in his first two symphonies
(Symphony 2, 1951). The 3rd is his last
major orchestral piece, and a very fine one
indeed. Lilburn, as you know, is interesting,
because he encompasses his
country's evolution from British
pastoralism to electronic sounds, having
been a leading figure throughout. Another
almost Nordic symphony from
down under is Arnold van Wyk
(1916-1983)'s utmostly poetic Primavera.
Rosenberg's 6th symphony and
Karl-Birger Blomdahl (1916-1968)'s
3rd (Facets, 1950) are two remarkable
examples of Swedish symphonies in the
early 1950s. Well. I could quote
Ukraine's Borys Lyatoshinsky, but he can
hardly be regarded as Nordic :-) Likewise
for Sandor Veress, who was published
mostly in Milano. His 2d symphony (as
many other works of his) is of outstanding
quality and compelling power.
- HOLMBOE: Symphonies Nos. 8 & 9 (BIS CD-618)
- TUBIN: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 6 (BIS CD-304)
- SAEVERUD: Symphony No. 7 (BIS CD-822 AURORA NCD-B 4953)
- SAEVERUD: Symphony No. 9 (AURORA NCD 4913)
- SAEVERUD: Symphony No. 8 "Minnesota".
I cannot find the reference now, and my
provider seems to be jammed. It has recently
been issued in a 2CD-box, I think, with other
works, including Symphony No. 5 and possibly
the previous one, Dreier's rendition of
Symphony No. 9. You can try to find it at the
Norwegian Music Information Centre
or ask them at this address.
- LILBURN: Symphonies Nos. 1-3 (CONTINUUM 1069).
New Zealand music
- van WYK: Primavera, Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2 (GSM CLAREMONT CD GSE 1509).
- ROSENBERG: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 6. I do not have the CD reference at hand,
you could find it at this address.
- BLOMDAHL: Symphonies Nos. 1-3 (CD BIS)
- LYATOSHINSKY: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3 (CD Marco Polo)
- VERESS: Sinfonia Minneapolitana (Symphony No. 2), Terszili Katicza
(Musikszene Schweiz CD MGB 6130)
- I may be mistaken, but I think that Josip
Stolcer-Slavenski (Croatia, 1896-1955)
also composed a mixed
electronic-orchestral piece in the 1950s.
Slavenski was a surprising pioneer
throughout his career, and I recently
heard a Sonata for violin and organ
(early 1920s) which can be compared
only with Rued Langgaard's Music of
the Spheres, in a different spirit, though.
His Sinfonija Orijenta (Religiofonia,1934)
must be one of the first major works to
bring all great monotheistic religions
- STOLCER SLAVENSKI: Croatian, but spent a large part of his career in
Croatian Music Information Centre or
Yugoslav Music Information Centre.
Concerti del boom economico/ Concerts of the economic boom
- What do you think of Gerhard's
magnificent Concerto for Orchestra
(1965) ? Also, just for the sake of
curiosity, I shall mention Tauno Marttinen
(Finland, 1912) and his violin concerto
(1962). He says that in its slow
movement, one hears something like
the breath of God. You know, it
might be true. Very impressive.
Another interesting and somewhat
mystic piece is the Byzantine
Concerto (Music of Octoecha 2,
1959) by Ljubica Maric (Serbia,
1909), who, together with Dusan
Radic, E. Josif and a few others,
show how then modernists escaped
communist ideological restrictions by
turning to very ancient Slavic traditions.
- GERHARD: Concerto for orchestra.
I have a LP (Argo). It would be very surprising
if either Valois or Chandos did not record
it before long.
- MARTTINEN: Violin concerto, Symphonies Nos. 1 & 8 (CD BIS-701)
- MARIC: Byzantine Concerto (CD SOKOJ/KOMUNA, double CD "Prag sna").
Sinfonie del boom economico/ Symphonies of the economic boom
- Here comes Tubin's 8th. Of course,
there are hundreds of symphonies in
the 1960s. I was thinking of a very
singular path, the one followed by
Stjepan Sulek (Croatia, 1914-1986),
who deliberately and, in a sense,
courageously reverted to Brucknerian
models, with his own luxuriant orchestral
imagination. His 6th symphony (1966)
seems to be one of the best instances
of this. A CD of his piano sonatas
has been released by Croatia Records.
In a very different style, two Serbia-born
composers completed grand symphonies
in the 1960s : Rudolf Bruci (1917,
he now lives in Zagreb, Croatia) with
his masterful and cinetic 2d symphony
(Sinfonia lesta, 1965), and Enriko Josif
(1924) with his 2d symphony
(Symphony in one movement, 1964),
a kaleidoscope of ideas, conflicts and
harsh sensuality, and also a wild reflection
on old Greek notions (Dionysian vs.
Apollinian ! ). A worthy recent release,
which could be difficult to place in this
chapter, but is one of the rare attempts to
acknowledge African influence in a grand
Western symphony -- albeit in a Portuguese
colonial context --, is Joly Braga-Santos
(Portugal, 1924-1988)'s 5th (1966).
- Ahmet Adnan Saygun (Turkey,
1907-1989)'s 3rd symphony should be worth
investigating too, but I have no idea of
where it can be found (there was an old
Melodiya LP). I have an Israeli symphony,
Mordechai Seter's Jerusalem (1968), which
sounds like a mix of ancient religious chant
and mild avant-garde.
- Finally, I should mention two very different
major composers, whose symphonies still are
unavailable (but it shouldn't last). One is Egon
Wellesz (Austria,1885-1974), widely regarded
as one of the last giants in the Bruckner-Mahler
tradition, with a much more dissonant style
of course. The other is Slovenia's modernist
Primoz Ramovs (1921), a proponent of purely
abstract music for the sake of sound, and
whose 4th symphony (Simfonija 68, 1968)
should be a very powerful piece.
- Korngold's Symphony in f sharp (1952). I really
recommend Kempe's recording, which gets rid
of Hollywoodian hybridations and offers a
strongly gripping performance.
- A masterly symphony in the Czech
and Slovak tradition either is Symfonia 1945
(Symphony No. 3, 1974) by Jan Cikker. There
was a LP Opus conducted by Kosler, and it is
likely that they have re-edited it on CD by now.
- You mentioned Havergal Brian. His 10th symphony
is particularly impressive, even in the
"youngster" Unicorn-Kanchana CD recording.
- TUBIN: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 8 (CD BIS-342)
- SULEK: Symphony No. 6* (LP Croatia Records LSY-66016)
- BRUCI: Sinfonia lesta (Symphony No. 2) LP Philips (probably not available)
- JOSIF: Simfonija u jednom stavu (Symphony No. 2)* LP Jugoton
- BRAGA-SANTOS: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 5
(CD Marco Polo 8.223879)
- SAYGUN: Symphony No. 3.
Apart from an old LP Melodiya (which I don't
have), maybe Hungaroton could record this.
They have recorded some of Sayguns's
orchestral songs, his large cantata "Yunus Emre"
(based on the life and work of this great Turkish
mystic), and some piano works.
- SETER: Symphony Jerusalem* (LP Aries).
- WELLESZ: Symphonies (especially Nos. 3-6, 9 ? ).
No recording available as yet, as far as I know.
But several record companies (CPO and others)
are coming to his works at last, so certainly one
of them will record these reputedly essential
- RAMOVS: Symphony 68 (Symphony No. 4)
LP Helido FLP-10-001.
La voce nell'epoca del silenzio/ Voice in the age of silence
- Sessions's Requiem could be quoted here,
don't you think ?
- SESSIONS: Requiem "when Lilacs..." (CD New World Records NW-296-2)
La citazione/ The quotation
- Of course, there are other examples and your
choice is very striking. I was thinking of the
first attempt of this kind in the East: Boris
Tchaikovsky (or Cajkovskij, Russia,
1925-1996 ?)'s 2d symphony, but maybe it is
not fully convincing. In fact, some of
Talivaldis Kenins's pieces are also full of
quotations, but I should say interiorized
ones. (Note: Talivaldis Kenins is a
Latvian-born Canadian composer, and in
my opinion one of the greatest living composers.
His Symphony No. 6, Piano Quartet No. 2,
Concerto for five percussionists and
orchestra, Fantaisies Concertantes for
piano and orchestra are some of his most
- Boris TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 2 (CD Russian Disc)
Il Minimalismo/ Minimalism
- When Baltic musicians became better-known,
everybody wondered at the fact that they had
been influenced by American minimalism while
living in the Soviet Union. The point is that
they did not know anything about Reich, Riley,
Glass... Minimalism has been present in
traditional Baltic music for centuries !
- Baltic composers:
Estonians on Finlandia Records, Antes Records.
The "Lithuanian New Music Series"
is outstanding, with very detailed notes, strongly
Musica vocale del Dissenso/ Vocal music of the crisis
- Another expression of revolt, which you know
well, is Allan Pettersson's. My personal
favorite is his 13th symphony, but No. 9
might be the closest musical equivalent to
infernal visionary frescoes such as Jerome
Bosch's paintings, and No. 10 is a tremendous
outburst of revolt too. Unfortunately, the only
vocal expressions of his struggle are Symphony
No. 12 (after Neruda) and Vox humana.
Those, if arguably not his very best, still
remain gripping statements, with gorgeous choral
- PETTERSSON: All symphonies available on
excellent CPO Records. Apparently, No. 10's
best rendition since Antal Dorati is the recent
BIS CD conducted by Leif Segerstam.
Symphony No. 12 (after Neruda): CD Caprice CAP-21369.
Il misticismo orientale/ Eastern misticism
- Here, you might like to try two French
composers : Eloy and Florentz. I don't know
if any music of Eloy is available, but Florentz's
vocal works (influenced by the Middle-East,
and most of all Ethiopia) have been recorded
recently, I think. Of course, there are also
Asian composers. Apart from the Japanese,
there are two very talented Vietnamese
composers. One is between two worlds, as
it were, Nguyen-Thien Dao (1940). The other
is deeply rooted in Oriental philosophy and
mysticism, Ton-That Tiet (1933. Ton-That
is the family name). Some of his works are
available on CD. A very striking one is
Jardins d'autre monde (Gardens from another
world), and I eagerly expect the completion
and recording of his Chemin de Bouddha.
- FLORENTZ: some CDs by Erato Records.
- DAO: Les Enfants d'Izieu
(actually based on tragic events from World
War II near Lyon),
CD MFA (Musique Francaise d'Aujourd'hui)
a technically brilliant, but spiritually sometimes
inaccurate anthology (with much too strong
reverberation) is available: CD REM 311232.
Well, some pieces are very finely and
sensitively played, for instance the viola piece.
If you can, try to find a recording or broadcast
of his "Jardins d'autre monde", for instance
by the Tokyo Sinfonietta.
I Quartetti dell'era postmoderna/ The quartets of the postmodern age
- Do you like Holmboe's quartets ? In a
very different style (and actually post-modern),
I can quote Forgotten music for string quartet
by Dubravko Detoni (one of Croatia's leading
- HOLMBOE: String quartets.
I think that DaCapo (Marco Polo)
has recorded quite a few of them.
- Some of Rosenberg's string quartets are
magnificent as well (Caprice Records).
- DETONI: Forgotten music (CD Croatia Records CD-D-K 509-62-69)
La sinfonia dell'era della crisi/ The symphony of the age of crisis
- Don't you like Roger Sessions's
symphonies ? I find them extremely
remarkable, especially No. 7 (1967). I
may not share his views about the Vietnam
war, but this period is powerfully reflected in
his symphonies Nos. 6-8, whose worth is,
however, purely and highly musical. I already
mentioned Pettersson's 13th, one of the
highlights of that decade, as well as
Balakauskas's 2d and Kenins's 6th and 7th.
There is also a very strange, and intensely
radiant work, Symphony No. 5 by Pascal
Bentoiu (Romania, 1927): it depicts the path
followed by a so-called thinking subject through
music history, from homophony and
heterophony to aleatoric gestures. Of course,
it is too short to be an encyclopaedia, but it is
a very strong experience, I think. It has been
recorded on a CD by Olympia (the record is
entitled Romanian Contemporary Music).
- SESSIONS: Symphonis Nos. 6, 7 & 9 (CD Argo 444-519-2)
- BALAKAUSKAS: Symphony No. 2 (CD 33 Records/Bomba Records)
- KENINS: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 7.
- BENTOIU: Symphony No. 5 (CD Olympia "Romanian Contemorary Music" OCD-416)
- Osvaldas Balakauskas was born in 1937.
There is an excellent anthological CD (33CD003)
available from 33 Records/Bomba in Lithuania.
It includes one of his most "popular" works, the
2d symphony, which probably is not his most
complex work, but has a very impressive drive
and clarity of purpose ; two works for cello
and tape which display a marvellous craftsman's
imagination in the rather hostile Soviet context
of the 1970s ; another piece for cello and piano,
and finally "Rain for Cracow", one of the violin
pieces which I have in my top list of priorities
for recitals (when I shall resume my concert
Their address is:
Snail-mail: Bomba Records, Zygimantu 6, 2600.
Phone: (370-2) 22 33 58, 62 27 31, 22 38 18; Fax:
(370-2) 22 57 15.
They have another outstanding record, devoted
to the complementary pole to Balakauskas in
Lithuanian music: Bronius Kutavicius (b.1932).
This latter CD is devoted to oratorios.
Balakauskas is strongly committed in
contemporary life, both a nationalist and a
cosmopolitan figure, whereas Kutavicius
represents ancient, timeless traditions,
together with a sweet tooth for formal
Another CD, more readily available, is the one
entitled "Peteris Vasks: Stimmen", vol. 1,
published by Finlandia a few years ago. It
features what probably is the best version
of Vasks's symphony for strings, but the real
gem is Balakauskas's Ostrobothnian Symphony, a
superb study in textures, not without his
characteristic rhythmic vitality. It is far both
from Vasks's "post-modernity" and from the
typical Baltic minimalism now prevalent in
Estonia, for instance.
A piece that encompasses Balakauskas's older
and more recent style, in an intensely vital
fresco, is "Opera Strumentale" for symphony
orchestra. For this, I
should advise you to turn to the
Lithuanian Music Information and Publishing Centre.
This is a very lively Centre, and each of their
own "Lithuanian New Music Series" CDs is really
worth investigating. The overall picture is very
captivating, and it includes a number of
also composed a work for string quartet and
symphony orchestra, "Passio strumentale", which I have not heard as of yet.
- Talivaldis Kenins (b.1919) certainly belongs
to the previous generation in every respect. He
has never touched electronic music, for instance,
and strongly believes in formal structure,
contrapunctic writing (of which he is a very
inventive master) and lucidity. Radio Canada
International released a 4 CD-box (ACM33) devoted
to Kenins in their "Anthology of Canadian Music"
series. Unfortunately, the music displayed there
is brilliant (Symphony No. 4, Violin Concerto) but
not entirely typical. In my opinion, his best
can be found in such pieces as the Symphony No. 6
"Ad Fugam" (on a fugue of J.S.Bach, a powerfully
gripping and moving piece, not a pastiche at all),
the Concerto for fourteen instruments, or the 2d
Quartet for piano and strings. The latter has
been recorded by Centrediscs (WRC8-7117) and is
the Canadian Music Centre,
20 St. Joseph Street, Toronto, Ontario M4Y 1J9,
They may have copies of the other pieces too.
The CD recording of the 2d Piano Quartet is
clean and should give you an idea of the music,
but it probably does not do justice to its
There are some hopes that BIS records start
an integral series of Kenins's symphonies, but
when, I could not tell.
Esperimenti sugli strumenti/ Experiments on instruments
- Have you heard Hugues Dufourt (1945)'s
gigantic symphony for percussion instruments,
Erewhon ? This really is a bold experiment,
and a very controlled one, too. He manages
to avoid exotic effects during more than an
hour, without ever becoming tiresome.
- DUFOURT: Erewhon.
No recording to my knowledge (which is
- Stjepan Sulek: Sonatas and Studies for piano (Croatia Records CD-D-K 5052623.)
- I should also quote Michael Levinas's nightmarish,
extraordinary menagerie of hybrid sounds in
Le Rire de Gilles. Also, I must pay tribute to
Gerard Grisey, who, together with Tristan Murail,
Horatiu Radulescu and others, initiated the
Spectral music movement, and passed away
two weeks ago. His untimely death is a terrible
loss for contemporary music.
Il risveglio della musica religiosa/ The revival of religious music
the other Lithuanian composer whom I
mentioned, Bronius Kutavicius (1931), really
stands at the mystic crossroads between
East and West in his oratorios (recorded by
Bomba records). A most promising work (but I
could not get any recording as yet) is
Cantus Magnificat, a symphony-oratorio by
Julius Juzeliunas (1916).
I would like to inform you there is a long play record of 'Cantus Magnificat' by Melodiya (c 10-26079-007). Yours sincerely,
Dr. Gediminas Juzeliunas
- In the CD featuring Tubin's 10th symphony,
there is his haunting Requiem, too. Of course, he
started work on it in 1950, but did not
complete it until 1979.
- Often considered backward-looking, but
mostly timeless are Rubbra's symphonies,
and notably his 9th, Sinfonia sacra (1972).
the CD which I mentioned (Bomba Records) is
BRONIUS KUTAVICIUS ORATORIJOS (CD 33 RECORDS 33CD006)
- JUZELIUNAS: Melodiya LP of his symphonies
- TUBIN: Requiem (CD BIS)
- RUBBRA: Symphony No. 9 (Sinfonia Sacra), Morning Watch (CD CHANDOS CHAN-9441)
- A major Hebraic religious cantata is "Moses" by Herman David Koppel
(Denmark, 1908-1998). The CD has been recorded by DaCapo.
Il concerto nonostante il concerto/ The concert notwithstanding the concert
- Some concerti are seemingly trying to
take inspiration from avant-garde vocal
experiments, for instance Ramovs's Cello
concerto or Anders Hillborg (Sweden, 1954)'s
Kenins's concerti for 14 instruments or
for 5 percussionists and orchestra are also
remarkable, if more traditional,
- RAMOVS: Cello Concerto*. (Edicije DSS)
Nuovi ensemble/ New ensembles
- You will find some very fine attempts in this
spirit in the Lithuanian New Music Series.
La sinfonia nonostante la sinfonia/ The symphony notwithstanding the symphony
- Here, I could quote Balakauskas's
Ostrobothnian, of course. Also Davies's 5th
(many regard it as his very best one),
Simpson's cosmic and much acclaimed 9th
(1987), the 6th and last by Konstantin Iliev
(Bulgaria,1924-1988), Norholm's glorious 2d
which you have quoted (probably in the
previous Symphony chapter), Tomas Marco's
5th, Jozsef Soproni (Hungary,1930)'s 3rd (da
Requiem), maybe Udo Zimmermann (Germany,
1934)'s threnody after Garcia Lorca (Sinfonia
come un gran lamento,1977). Ake Hermanson
(Sweden,1923) is said to have composed a
visionary 4th symphony (Oceanus,1983), but
I never had a chance to hear it. His 1st (1967)
already was quite awesome.
- BALAKAUSKAS: Ostrobothnian Symphony
(CD Finlandia 4509-97892-2)
- P.M.DAVIES: Symphony No. 5
(CD Collins 14602)
SIMPSON: Symphony No. 9
(CD Hyperion CDA66299)
ILIEV: Symphony No. 6*
- MARCO: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 5 (CD Col Legno AU 31812)
- SOPRONI: Symphony No. 3*
- U.ZIMMERMANN: Sinfonia come un gran lamento*