Bernt Kasberg Evensen – ”In memoriam Christian Høgsberg” for Violin and Piano (1986/90)
(b. Tønsberg, Norway, 2 February 1944
Bernt Kasberg Evensen is essentially self-taught as a composer. He has travelled widely and has lived and worked in several countries in the course of his life: Mexico, Scotland, Germany and, of course, Norway.
Evensen has, by and large, lived a life of service, always putting the welfare of others (family, friends and associates) before any concern for his own success. His years in Scotland established his competence and passion for working with the disabled and with psychiatric patients, as well as his close association to the Camphill and Anthroposophist philosophy and community, which continues to this day.
Evensen is also an excellent baritone singer and has performed extensively as such. He is almost certainly the only singer to have performed Schubert’s Winterreise and Pettersson’s Barfotasånger side by side. A recent, very moving performance of the latter (from November 2014) can be enjoyed on YouTube.
All the same, he knew that composition was his true vocation from a very early age. The Norwegian Music Information data base lists over 100 works by Evensen in many genres: symphonic, chamber, vocal, stage music, music for children…
For many years Evensen worked closely with the School Concert Department of the Norwegian Concert Institute (Rikskonsertene). This prompted him to compose several musical fairytales, which he performed at schools throughout Norway between 1976 and 1988.
His concert music includes some of the most fascinating material written by any composer in Norway.
Evensen has a very personal and unique tonal language. He has a keen awareness of the intrinsic tension of intervals and, although his music is often harmonically and contrapuntally complex, rare is the composition where he does not include one or several unison passages where intervals are allowed to stand starkly, creating a dramatic play of tension and release. Since the 1980s Evensen has experimented with scales derived from the writings of theosophist Anny von Lange (1887-1959). He has also used twelve-tone techniques in a free, personal way. Ravel has remained a favourite composer through Evensen’s life, an influence the essence of which he has assimilated into his music without ever resorting to idle imitation.
In Memoriam Christian Høgsberg
Original score available from the Norwegian National Library (www.mic.no)
In June 1991 Evensen writes (in Lübeck): „Christian Høgsberg (1948-1990) was first of all a great eurhythmist possessing an overwhelming radiance mastered by a brilliant technique. He was a born leader and, as all great fighters, a lonely man. Together with his wife Adeline he created the stage group “Ildfuglen” (the Firebird) and founded the eurhythmy school of Århus (Denmark). From the start “Ildfuglen” went on extensive tours through most countries of Western Europe and the ensemble prospered and grew. In the late eighties their tours also enclosed the United States and as soon as the possibility occurred they went to Moscow, Leningrad and Tbilisi, being the first stage group to bring eurhythmy to the U.S.S.R. At his death tours through South America and Australia were fully planned.
Christian Høgsberg was also a writer of high merit. His literary production includes novels, short stories, plays and fairytales. His enormous poetic output contains poems in Danish and German language. In 1989 he was invited by the Society of Writers in Tallinn to present his work (and his ensemble “Ildfuglen”) there and a selection of his literary output was prepared for an edition in the Estonian language.
The present “Prelude” and “Postlude” were written to frame a scene from C.H’s. play “Judas”, later it was used to frame Soloviev’s “Antichrist” and both pieces have been played more than a hundred times by “Ildfuglen” on tour through the above mentioned countries.
The “In Memoriam” was written spontaneously having received the news of his death.“
It is easy to infer from the text above (which accompanies the copy of the manuscript that can be purchased from the Norwegian National Library) that In Memoriam Christian Høgsberg is a work that lies very close to its composer’s heart. It certainly stands as one of Evensen’s most consummate compositions. From the first ponderous chords to the final fade, there is a keen sense of gravity that pervades the entire work. The use of counterpoint and harmony is, as always with Evensen, exquisite and highly personal, obeying an inner logic that firmly sustains the music while constantly creating a sense of wonder. One feels that every note has been carefully chosen to occupy its rightful place in time. Except for a very short, lively episode in the first movement (measures 20 to 29) the music is slow and pensive, albeit not devoid of luminous sequences, particularly in the third movement. The ”Prélude” does what a prelude is meant to do, solemnly and with dignity. The second movement, played by the violin alone, stands as the work’s true centrepiece. It is a deeply felt elegy. Evensen once told me that he considers this movement the best he has ever written. Both here and in the rest of the work, the intervals are, in typical Evensen fashion, very meaningful, always creating a dynamic play of tension and release. The second and third movements in particular create a strong sense of balance between very large and very small melodic intervals. A moment of great tension is achieved in the solo violin movement by the accumulation of harmonic seconds (major and minor) juxtaposed with larger intervals in measures 50 to 55. This represents the emotional climax of the work, only matched in intensity by the slow, implacable and devastating crescendo that concludes the piece (mm. 34-43 in the third movement, ”Postlude”). Here, as elsewhere in the third movement, Evensen makes use of all the twelve tones of the chromatic scale in an entirely personal way. Finally arriving at the same chord that opened the Postlude, the violin leads the music into silence, by repeating a descending tritone, like a dark pied piper from a secret dimension.
Ricardo Odriozola, 8 May 2019