Antagonia premiere: Norwegian success

Yesterday, a truly significant event took place in Norwegian musical life, when the Philharmonic Society’s orchestra under the direction of  conductor Miltiades Caridis premiered Johan Kvandal’s Concerto for 2 string orchestras and percussion (‘Antagonia’), Op. 38.

Johan Kvandal belongs to those Norwegian composers who are currently in a rich creative and progressive periode. I interpret this concert as a peak so far in his career.

The work has a wide scope with three traditionally constructed movements: Allegro non troppo, Andante tranquillo, Allegro molto. The Philharmonic Orchestra’s string section was on this occasion divided into two parts, placed on each side of the podium with the percussion behind each group. Thereby the composer achieves a stereo effect, which he intermittently has exploited deftly in composition terms. A larger podium than the University’s Aula would of course have been desirable to have a greater dispersion of the soundscape, but nevertheless yesterday’s performance had a fine effect.

The slow second movement was particularly powerful, where Kvandal for a large part has abandoned his melodic principle and instead built the music on contrasting sound spaces. The outer movement’s concerting drive stands against this, and may in the long run become a bit stereotypical and fussing, but no more than that the work as a whole must still be regarded as one of the best in Norwegian orchestral music. And conductor and orchestra gave expressed fully the composer’s intentions.

Violinist Christian Ferras was a superb interpreter of Bela Bartok’s excellent Violin concerto number 2. He played the technically demanding solo part brilliantly and passionately.  Brahm’s Tragic ouverture as the opening sounded as it should.

by Folke Strømholm, VG, 26th October 1973