Sierra Chamber Society Program Notes

Johan Halvorsen (1864-1935)

Passacaglia (Duo for Violin and Viola, after Handel), 1894

Halvorsen was a Norwegian violinist, composer and conductor. He studied at the Stockholm Conservatory, as well as in Leipzig, Berlin and Leige. He was appointed conductor of the theatre in Bergen in 1892, and served as conductor of the Christiania National Theatre from 1899-1929, where he directed over 25 operas as well as orchestral concerts.

Halvorsen's compositions developed from the national romantic tradition of Grieg and Svendson but in a distinctive style marked by brilliant orchestration.

To judge by the Schwann catalog of Classical Music, Halvorsen's compositions are now enjoying a revival in his homeland. Previously his fame rested on two works, arrangements of movements from the harpsichord suites of George Friedrich Handel (1685-1759). Handel composed 12 suites for harpsichord. The Passacaglia is taken from Suite #7 in G Minor where it serves as the sixth movement. This work is very demanding on the performers; part of its virtuosity entails having the two instruments simulate the sonority of a string quartet, through the use of double stops (the playing of two or more tones simultaneously on the violin and related string instruments).

The Passacaglia is a form of baroque music said to derive from a Spanish dance. It unfolds as a continuous theme, usually in moderately slow triple meter, with a slow harmonic rhythm changing generally with the measure.

1992-93 Season, Program II, Sunday November 1, 1992

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