Olav Trygvason

Opera by Edvard Grieg, libretto by Bjørnstjerne BjørnsonUnicorn-Kanchana CD# UKCD2056

KveldulfR Gundarsson mentions this piece in Teutonic Religion as the finest piece of Heathen music ever written. I believe he is correct.

Olav was intended to be an opera about the Norwegian "hero" Olav the Traitor, who converted Norway through intimidation and murder. However, due to a rocky relationship between Greig and his librettist, none of the scenes featuring the Christian conversion were ever completed, and we are left only with three pieces depicting the Asatru-folk preparing for the coming conflict. And they say the Gods don't take a hand in the world?

The opera opens with an invocation to each of the Gods and Goddesses in turn, performed by a Gothi and Gythia solists, punctuated by a choral "Hör os! Hör os! (Hear us! Hear us!). It begins very quietly and then comes to a peak, just as a correctly done invocation should. The second scene is a sibyl carving runes for victory in the coming battle, and the third a ritual dance done to invoke the Gods for battle. All the selections are fantastic both in composition and execution and capture a real sense of the excitement of Heathen ritual. Unless you are truly allergic to operatic singing, this is a disk you must own.

The one gripe I do have about this disk is that it is terribly engineered. While the music is supposed to start quietly and build to a peak, there are points when one must turn up the volume quite high in order to make out anything. A complete libretto is included which includes an English translation. The disk also features a selection "Landkjenning," about Olav Trygvason, and selections from Peer Gynt. Another recording featuring Olav is available under the title Landkjenning (Deutsche Grammaphone CD# 437 523-2), but I have not yet obtained it. Both are available on CD only. We thought the music worthy enough to purchase a CD player. (LS)

[NOTE: This version is now out of catalog, but the DG version mentioned above is available and excellent.]