Hyperion Records

Fantaisie norvégienne
September 1878; first performed by Sarasate under Max Bruch on 1 December

'Rare French works for violin and orchestra' (CDH55396)
Rare French works for violin and orchestra
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Movement 1: Andante – Allegretto
Movement 2: Andante
Movement 3: Allegro – Presto

Fantaisie norvégienne
It is probably coincidental that Édouard Lalo finished writing his Fantaisie norvégienne at the time that the composer Johan Svendsen was moving into Sarasate’s Paris apartment in September 1878. However, the recent popularity of Norwegian music, from Svendsen’s own Rapsodies norvégiennes to Grieg’s chamber works and songs, cannot be without influence on its existence. We know that Svendsen—himself a renowned violinist—visited Lalo in November of that year, when it is probable that this Fantaisie was discussed. On the 13th of that month Lalo wrote to Sarasate, who was away on a long tour:

… I should be used by now to your silence sickness, but as I have been waiting for some news on ‘la norvégienne’, whom I still don’t know, I have been counting the days. Not seeing anything come from you, I had started to admit to myself that you did not like her, that I had missed its orchestration, and that you were backing off, day after day, for the moment when you were going to announce to me this sore failure.

Lalo gave up too early on his faithful friend and started to transform the Fantaisie into the now well-known orchestral work, Rapsodie norvégienne. Meanwhile Sarasate was already learning the piece, and soon after, on 1 December 1878, he gave the premiere with Max Bruch conducting. (This inspired Bruch to write his Scottish Fantaisie Op 46, written immediately afterwards for Sarasate and based on the same concept.)

Even though most of the thematic material of the Fantaisie norvégienne is derived from true folk songs and dances, which Lalo claimed to have found in a publication from Christianna, he used for the first part a song, ‘Fjeldlat’, extracted from Grieg’s Folkelivsbilder Op 19, published in 1872. A long controversy followed in which Lalo’s own son, the powerful music critic Pierre Lalo, felt the need to defend his father’s view that these were all genuine folk tunes twenty-five years after the composition was completed. Grieg, who once asked Lalo if he could take some lessons with him on instrumentation, didn’t seem to mind, writing to a friend: ‘… allow me, please, to take this small theft as a compliment’.

from notes by Philippe Graffin © 2002

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