KELSEYVILLE – Lake County residents of Norwegian descent helped to create a near-capacity crowd on Saturday, Feb. 7, at Kelseyville's Galilee Lutheran Church to hear youthful pianist Knut Erik Jensen play the music of his country.
Jensen's masterful playing of Clear Lake Performing Arts' Yamaha grand piano evoked the magic and majesty of Scandinavia, as well as the skills of some of Norway's leading composers.
Sporting the long blonde hair of his Viking ancestors, Jensen managed to blend an oral history of his homeland with the music of its masters, starting with its premier composer Edvard Grieg who, Jensen explained, not only won worldwide acclaim for his musical abilities, but also managed to help establish a national identity for Norway, which had long been a province of Denmark.
Part of that identity was Grieg's rediscovery of ancient Norwegian peasant dances – entitled his “Opus 72” – which Jensen used as his opener.
This was Jensen's second appearance in Lake County. Two years ago his concert was underwritten by the Sons of Norway, and consisted of an all-Grieg repertoire.
This year's appearance was sponsored jointly by Clear Lake Performing Arts and the Sons of Norway, and the program was expanded to include lesser-known but more contemporary composers. One of these – whose “Nordic Suite, Opus 18” and “Fairyland, Opus 16” – were second on the program and written by Alf Hurum who wound up as founder and leader of the Honolulu Symphony.
Another popular Norwegian composer, Christian Sinding, was greatly influenced by the French impressionists, which was demonstrated by Jensen's playing of his “Rustles of Spring” creating visions of trickling water rolling onward toward a thundering cataract which ended with matching applause from the audience.
David Monrad Johansen, who died in 1974, tried to use his music to recreate the Viking Glory Days of Norway and Jensen chose his “Two Portraits from the Middle Age, Opus 8,” to illustrate the point.
The first half of the concert ended with Harald Saeverud's “Rondo Amoroso, Opus 14, No. 7” and the thunderous, militaristic “Ballad of Revolt,” the composer's rage against his nation's occupation in World War II by Nazi Germany.
Following intermission Jensen played a total of 16 of the numbers from Geirr Tveitt's “50 Folk Tunes from Hardanger.” Tveitt had made it his life's mission to find, restore and record the folk music of the Hardanger Fjord district in which he lived, and succeeded in compiling more than a thousand.
Unfortunately he stored them in his barn, which caught fire and burned all of the musical manuscripts. Subjects included romance, weddings, the forces of nature and – on three different pieces – a salute to one of Norway's most prized accomplishments – the brewing of good beer. Jensen sailed through more than a half hour of these tunes all without benefit of written music.
Standing applause brought Jensen back to the piano for an encore, a lilting and melodious interpretation of Greig's “Wedding Day at Troldhavgen.”
Following the concert attendees joined Jensen in a reception at the adjoining Galilee annex where they were greeted by Carl and Mary Beth Ingvoldstad in full Norwegian regalia. They came originally from the Gudbransdalen area of Norway and are active in the Sons of Norway.