Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Call to Arms

Harald Saeverud - a name not generally known in our culture.
In Norway, a composer who becomes one of the most powerful voices following Grieg. He lived a long and fruitful life(1897-1992), already a young boy when Grieg died in 1907.
I will address his prolific and meaningful output in another writing; at this time, I should like to tell you about a most compelling piece for the piano, titled "Ballad of Revolt".
One story which describes the reason for the Ballad is the following: when the Nazis had occupied Norway, Saeverud recalled a particular day when he stepped out of his home and saw in an area facing his house a group of German soldiers billeted and in full uniform. Another story was that the composer was on a train and witnessed the plight of occupied Norway - I do not know which of these two incidents is the truth, or whether both are apocryphal. At any rate, he later remarked that during this period "I had to make my work a personal war against Germany".
And so he wrote a series of works describing his anger and hatred directed at the Intruder.
One of his pieces written at that time was the Ballad, which is truly a call to arms .
One of my former students, who is now a professor of music in Norway, called my attention to this piece when he last visited me. It took some time to find a copy of it, but I do have it , in a fine edition from Norway.
The two recordings I know of are by Leif Ove Andsnes, the legendary Norwegian pianist, and in a multiple CD set of Saeverud's complete piano output, Einar Rottingen, who studied with Saeverud during the last years. Rottingen has honored me by having played and recorded some of my music in recent years.
The Ballad is a magnificent expression, reminiscent in spirit of the so-called 'Revolutionary" etude by Chopin, or the equally well-known Polonaise in "A" flat. Listen to the interpretation by Andsnes - I think that you will find it a most evocative and relentless statement.

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