Halvor Haug - Duetto Bramoso for violin and guitar (1976)
First performance: February 8th 1977, NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Company)
A recording (now unavailable) of the work was released in 1980 by Philips (Norway) under the “Contemporary Music from Norway” series. The players in that recording are Simon Walter Hauge, violin and Sven Lundestad, guitar.
Further studies in Helsinki brought him, in 1973, in contact with Einar Englund (1916 – 1999) and Erik Bergman (1911 – 2006) who where his teachers for a year. Bergman was one of the pioneers of modernism in Finland. Englund (one of the foremost Finnish symphonists in the generation after Sibelius) taught Haug mainly orchestration. These two impulses proved to be of great importance for the development of Haug’s artistic personality. In 1978 Haug received advice from the English composer Robert Simpson (1921 - 1997), another great symphonist in the second half of the Twentieth Century.
The 1976 work “Symfonisk Bilde” (Symphonic Picture) marks Haug’s first truly independent composition, written without outside guidance. Further works such as “Stillhet” (Silence) for strings and the orchestral pieces “Poema Sonoro”, “Poema Patetico” and “Furuenes Sang” (Song of the pines) established Haug as one of Norway’s foremost symphonic voices. Five symphonies followed, the last three of which were commissioned, nos. 3 and 5 by the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra and no. 4 by the Oslo Philharmonic.
The work “Insignia” was commissioned for the Lillehammer Olympic Games in 1994. It became one of Haug’s most often performed works internationally. Other commissions include the symphonic song cycle “Glem aldri henne” (‘Never forget her’ – Trondheim S.O. for the celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the city of Trondheim, 2000) and “Il Preludio dell’ Ignoto” (Ungdomssymfonikerne).
Haug has also written a number of remarkable chamber works, amongst which the most prominent are his two string quartets (1985 and 1996) and the Piano Trio (1995). The second string quartet was premiered at the 1996 Stavanger Chamber Music Festival, where Haug was festival composer that year. Other pieces in smaller format include the early “Sonatine” for violin and piano (1973), “Duetto Bramoso” for violin and guitar (1976) a Brass Quintet from 1981 and “Essay” for alto trombone and string quartet (1987).
Christoph Schlüren, one of Halvor Haug’s tireless advocates, has the following to say about his music:
Haug’s dissonance treatment, his chordal collisions which flow like molten lava, and his diatonically led, chromatically regulated strong sense of melody are evidence of a composer of immense and refined sensibilities.[…]
Halvor Haug is among the minority of composers who are fully in control of the orchestra as an instrument. He knows how best to calculate orchestral effects and is aware of new instrumental combinations. A virtuoso in the use of orchestral chiaroscuro and timbral change, he integrates competing qualities of sound in the service of absolute musical drama. […]
The composer, however, is not party to a philosophy of avoidance or negation, preferring to see his output as one that has emerged from a Nordic symphonic tradition still in its infancy. His grammatical style obeys other rules than those of his predecessors. His syntax is extremely personal. And the content is what holds the whole thing together, having its roots in a uniquely personal soil. Again and again, we recognise that it is not the ‘what’ but the ‘how’ which determines the artistic success of any piece of music. Halvor Haug’s musical language may be full of allusions, but it never runs out of ideas, just as a good film is more than the sum of the individual scenes. It is up to the listener to identify the main theme, and to align himself with the wishes of the protagonist. For the protagonist is not just an acoustic phenomenon, but a living being. But life itself is inscrutable in that the distinctness of one who lives and that which is lived remains part of the act of living.
(Christoph Schlüren: “Halvor Haug – Music’s inscrutable Life” 1997)
Duetto Bramoso is an early work. Haug wrote it when he was 24 years old. “Bramoso” can be translated as envious, greedy of jealous. The work is divided in three movements. The features that characterize Haug’s later, mature production are already apparent in this chamber work: a searching quality in the melodic material and predominantly dissonant counterpoint and harmony, which sometimes coalesces into consonant chords, such as major and minor triads. There are also tendencies towards experimentation with sound, as is evidenced by the use of artificial harmonics in both instruments in the third movement and the use of “pizzicato” in the guitar in the second movement.
The first movement is the most inquisitive, with a great deal of motivic work and several changes of tempo. The character is predominantly lyrical. In the second movement, a de facto scherzo, a playfulness that is not so common in Haug’s music can be felt. It is set as a dialogue of sorts, the instruments petering out at the end as if the conversation has born no fruit or the interlocutors are walking away. Without a pause the introspective third movement begins. A somewhat unsettled guitar ostinato sets the scene for some ethereal violin harmonics. The guitar turns to harmonics in the middle of a violin solo that ultimately brings the music back to the main theme of the first movement played, in turn by the guitar and the violin. The piece ends quietly in an air of virtual disembodiment, finally resting on a peaceful E-major chord.
Regarding the text: Haug’s bowing suggestions have been left on the violin part, even though they do not always seem idiomatic. Measures 49-50 in the fist movement are a case in point. The two consecutive down-bows may, perhaps be understood as accents (as is sometimes the case with other composers who are not string players). The interpreter may use his or her discretion in dealing with the bowings, as long as the phrasing, as expressed by the composer, is respected.
Source for Halvor Haug’s biographical sketch: Store Norske Leksikon (article by Rune J. Andersen - 2012)
Ricardo Odriozola 30.12 2019