Stimmungsbilder for Violin and Piano
Johan Halvorsen (1864-1935) was born in Norwegian town of Drammen. As a boy, he was given violin lessons and his talent quickly became apparent. He took violin lessons in both Oslo and Stockholm before he entered the Leipzig Conservatory and where he studied violin with Adolph Brodsky. He continued his studies in Belgium with Cesar Thomson and then in St. Petersburg with Leopold Auer. All during this time he supported himself by concertizing throughout Europe, while at the same serving as concertmaster of a number of orchestras including, the Leipzig Gewandhaus and those in Aberdeen, Helsinki, Bergen and Stockholm. In 1899, he was appointed conductor of the orchestra at the newly-opened National Theatre in Oslo, a position he held for 30 years until his retirement in 1929. He wrote in most genres and followed the so-called national romantic tradition, pioneered by Edvard Grieg, with his own distinctive style. His writing for the violin is particularly fine. Today he is only remembered for a few works such as his orchestral march Bojarenes inntogsmarsj (Entry of the Boyars)and his Passacaglia and Sarabande, a duet for violin and viola based on themes by Handel.
The Six StimmungsbilderóCharacter Pieces, literally Mood Imagesódate from around 1890. Throughout the mid and late 19th century, collections of character pieces to express various moods or ideas were quite popular. Here we have a formal Praeludium followed a sad piece, Einsamkeit or Loneliness, then a folk song (Volkslied). Next is a scherzo, a light-hearted piece, Geplauder or Chit Chat which in turn is followed by a traditional favorite, Album Leaf (Albumblatt). The work concludes with an evocative piece Abendstimmung (At Twilight).
These wonderful short pieces, long out of print, together make a fine choice recital. They are not virtuosic works and present no technical problems and can easily be managed by the average player. They rely on musicality to make their effect.