Per Norgard is a major force among Danish composers, and no wonder. His music has exuberance, brilliance, and the freedom from inhibition or routine that we expect of a true symphonist in this post-Mahlerian age. His Third Symphony, in two big movements, features in its finale a chorus that among other things sings the Latin hymn Ave maris stella as well as a poem by Rilke. The words are completely unintelligible, what with all the other stuff going on at the same time, but it hardly matters because the music is stunningly colorful, atmospheric (cosmic even), and often very beautiful. There are tunes here, triadic harmonies, as well as wild dissonance, but it's all controlled so as to create an impressively intense pattern of tension and release, and to keep the ear engaged. You won't take in all of it the first time through, but you will want to come back for more, which is the first indication that we're dealing with a serious contender for "classic" status.
The SeventhSymphony, which just had its premiere a few months ago, is a bit tougher in its harmonic acerbity, but it's also easy to hear the same creative voice at work. In three short movements, it features prominent solos for 14 tuned tom-toms, and this highlights the driving force of rhythm that plays a major role here. The piece is over before you know it, and leaves you wanting more.
The performances under Thomas Dausgaard, recorded in the composer's presence, are presumably authoritative and sound just splendid. The orchestral playing has plenty of the necessary bravura, and in the Third Symphony the singers are very well integrated within the complex instrumental textures. If you're looking for some really good contemporary music, challenging but rewarding, full of personality and integrity, then this powerfully engineered production offers a perfect opportunity to satisfy your craving. (David Hurwitz / Classics Today)