Christian Sinding’s opus 5, played by the Take 5 piano quintet.
These brilliant musicians cover the “European” side of Sinding very well in their interpretation of this work, which is obviously present, and which is what he is most known for in Norway. But the strange and quirky side of the music, the nature of Norway, indeed of Norwegians, put into a Romantic, virtuoso idiom, is maybe not quite as well understood. The troll in us, the nature around us, the stylised or otherwise changed folk music, all this is so easy to identify for an insider, maybe less so for a foreigner. This is present in the music, maybe a little less in the playing.
Grieg has of course a lot of this stuff, but is usually unable or uninterested to put it into more complicated forms. This is what Sinding does, and it would be most interesting to hear even more of what the music has to say on this point, especially in the first and last movements. In the third movement the meeting of folklore and educated forms is actually very audible, but could maybe still be given even more flair of the nature which is the inspiration for it. Extreme clarity on one side, quirkiness, darkness, coarse and even evil turns on the other, that is, I would say, traditionally the sound of this in the national romantic Norwegian tradition. There is probably a lot more to say about it, but this is one way of putting it that I don’t think miss the point completely.
In Norway, I believe Sinding is often seen as a little dusty, over-intellectual composer, and actually, after listening to this, it seems totally wrong. Nature is never far away in our country, and a constant inspiration even today. Sinding puts it into a classical form, but it is still there.
It sounds stupid once again to demand from foreigners that they should properly understand us – but our cultural isolation for so many years has made much of our culture virtually unknown to outsiders, and badly understood by ourselves, because we have lacked other perspectives than our own.
Maybe it is difficult to understand this part of our arts without having experienced a summer night in Oslo or a winter day in Tromsø. Nature is such a strong force here, and thoroughly brought out in this period of musical history. Inspiration from nature is sometimes the very reason for saying what is said, or the mode which every other sentiment moves in, the over-all idea, the mould that the music, in this case, is cast in. I may be wrong in overemphasizing this in Sinding, but not in the period in which he lived.
I’m less sure what function the virtuoso side of the music has, but I don’t doubt that it has one. If nothing else, it is a means of getting the message through, a way of showing off, but in order to leave no doubt about what is said.