Ole Kristian Ruud: Harald Sæverud Symphonies 2 and 3

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BookCloseoutsHarald Sæverud - Symphony No. 2 in C Minor Op. 4
Conducted by Ole Kristian Ruud with the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra.

I. Entrata Drammatica - Allegro Molto - 00:00
II. Andante Mesto - 2:07
III. Sonata Grande - Allegro Molto Con Fuoco - 11:17

Symphony No. 3 in B Flat Minor Op. 5
Conducted by Ole Kristian Ruud with the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra.

I. Andante Con Moto - Allegro Molto E Con Grazioso - 00:00
II. Andante - 16:18
III. Finale - Allegro Molto - 33:55

Harald Sigurd Johan Sæverud (17 April 1897--27 March 1992) was a Norwegian composer. He is most known for his music to Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt, Rondo Amoroso, and the Ballad of Revolt (Norwegian: Kjempeviseslåtten). Sæverud wrote nine symphonies, and a large number of pieces for solo piano. He was a frequent guest conductor of his own works with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra.

Harald Sæverud was born in Bergen and got his basic music education at the local conservatory where his teacher was the Leipzig-educated composer Borghild Holmsen. During his conservatory years he began working on what would become his first symphony, outlined as two large symphonic fantasies. The first fantasy was completed in 1919 and was accepted for performance in Kristiania (later Oslo) in 1920. It revealed an extraordinary talent and gained him a scholarship for further studies at Staatliche Hochschule für Musik, where Friedrich Koch was his teacher for two years. In Berlin, Sæverud completed the final part of his first symphony, and this new section was premiered by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. The performance was conducted by his friend Ludwig Mowinckel, who had hired the orchestra to present a concert dedicated to modern Norwegian music. The critics were mostly favorable to Sæverud's symphony, and this further raised his interest for symphonic and orchestral music.

Harald Sæverud moved back to his hometown of Bergen in 1922, where he stayed - with few exceptions - for the rest of his life. His earliest compositions are coloured by a late Romantic musical style, but later he developed a personal idiom, often based on classical forms inspired by composers like Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. But his neo-classicism could often possess dissonant and strong expression. How he has utilized this, is commented on by musicologist Lorentz Reitan: "His symphonies, for example, are studies in musical form: Thematic/motive development in accordance with the material's own rules and logic. Classic forms such as sonatas and fugue are for him, to a larger extent, overriding principles rather than forms to be filled out, and his circling around musical constructions often gives his music an abstract quality". (Cappelens Musikkleksikon).

After the war, Sæverud was considered to be the dean of Norwegian composers and he gained wide popularity for a number of his compositions. Particularly noteworthy from his later years, are his incidental music for Ibsen's Peer Gynt (1948), his symphonies nr. 8 Minnesota (1958) and nr. 9 (1966), the ballet Count Bluebeard's Nightmare, and concertos for piano, violin and bassoon. During the two last decades of his long life the orchestra-composer suddenly got an interest in chamber music, and produced, among others, three string quartets and two woodwind quintets.
Harald Sæverud was widely famous for his humour, mainly of a grotesque kind. "I was born on a graveyard," he said, and it is a fact that the ground under the house where he was born was both a former graveyard and a place of execution. He was convinced that his mother's nightmares there had influenced both him as a person and composer: "My music is terribly melancholy - wildly melancholy."