Powerful orchestral writing, wonderful themes and a simply divine solo violin part. Over the past 10 years the works of Hjalmar Borgstrøm have been re-discovered by musicians and audiences. His well-crafted writing and sincere ideas about music sits well with us today, and the inspired performances on this World Premiere Recording will earn him even more followers.
Borgstrøm idolized Wagner, and was an ardent champion for programme music. He pondered over literary and religious matters, read and studied, listened and wrote. Although idealism was not unknown in artistic circles at that time, Borgstrøm probably took it further than most, focusing on what he called “the intellectual content of music”. After returning to Norway around 1900, he spent the rest of his days as a composer and a feared and fearless music critic there.
Two symphonic poems
Jesus in Gethsemane was premiered in Kristiania in 1904, and performed many times after that. In his written programme, Borgstrøm picks freely from all four gospels, describing the agony of Jesus the night before the crucifixion. The Night of the Dead was premiered by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 1905, but has never been performed in Norway. Along the lines of Saint-Säens’s Dance Macabre, or indeed Michael Jackson’s Thriller, the work takes place in a cemetery – around midnight…
A transcending violin concerto
Premiered in 1914 with Leif Halvorsen as soloist, Borgstrøm’s Violin Concerto has only been performed twice since. Borgstrøm probably conceived and shaped the course of his music in very similar ways, whether the work was classical and purely instrumental or a literary inspired symphonic poem. In both instances he strove to write music in which themes and motifs, harmonic and textural progressions, characteristic use of instruments and figures could be combined in dramatic and meaningful musical development; giving his music a narrative voice.