Thanks to Johan Kvandal’s strong, but introverted music, Hamsun’s “Mysteries” has survived the leap from literary existential foreignness to music drama. Many would fear that some of the best in modernist Norwegian literature might be ‘lost in translation’ from novel to opera. But Johan Kvandal’s genial music makes the scenic almost superfluous.
Nagel’s spiritual experiences are given a musical expression that measures up to Hamsun.
(…) Kvandal’s music is permeated with verve, melodically as well as rythmically. And Kvandal is not the kind the of composer who seeks effects for their own sake. He uses quite few modernistic effects at all and his musical language actually is not unlike Hamsun’s literary language; ideas fall in and are integrated, then disappearing and finally reemerging into a new synthesis.
For example the finale, when Nagel completely loses grip on existence and for some reason has to kill himself before the stroke of midnight.
The music dissolves and disappears over the edge of the pier together with Nagel. In the same way you can really hear the friction of Nagel’s nerves when he sings out “”My whole being is humbug””, without the music being overly operatic.
Since the music spans over so much more, the performance leaves one wish: A disc recording as soon as possible.
by Cathrine Th. Paulsen, Klassekampen, January 1994