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Valen, (Olav) Fartein

Valen, (Olav) Fartein

Valen, (Olav) Fartein , noted Norwegian composer; b. Stavanger, Aug. 25, 1887; d. Haugesund, Dec. 14, 1952. His father was a missionary in Madagascar, and Valen spent his early childhood there. When he was 6 the family returned to Stavanger, and he received piano lessons from Jeannette Mohr and others; taught himself theory. In 1906 he entered the Univ. of Christiania as a student of language and literature; he soon devoted himself entirely to music, pursuing his training in theory with Elling at the Christiania Cons., graduating as an organist in 1909; then received instruction in composition from Bruch, in theory and composition from Karl Leopold Wolf, and in piano from Heschberg at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik (1909-11). From to 1924 he lived on his family’s farm in Valevâg; he then was active in Oslo, where he held the post of inspector of the Norwegian Music Collection at the library of the Univ. (1927-36). In 1935 he received the Norwegian State Salary of Art (a government life pension). His early music reflects the influence of Brahms, but later he developed a sui generis method of composition which he termed “atonal polyphony/” completely free from traditional tonal relationships but strongly cohesive in contrapuntal fabric and greatly varied in rhythm; his first work in which he made use of this technique was a Piano Trio written in 1924. He never adopted an explicit 12-tone method of composition, but a parallelism with Schoenberg’s music is observable. Valen stood apart from all nationalist developments in Oslo, yet his music attracted attention in modern circles; a Valen Soc. was formed in Norway in 1949, and in England in 1952, shortly before his death.

Works

orchPastorale (1929-30); Sonetto di Michelangelo (1932); Nenia (1932); Cantico di ringraziamento (1932-33); An die Hoffnung (1933); Epithalamion (1933); Le Cimetière marin (1933-34); La isla de las calmas (1934); 5 syms.: No. 1 (1937-39; Bergen, Feb. 2,1956), No. 2 (1941-44; Oslo, March 28,1957), No. 3 (1944-46; Oslo, April 13, 1951), No. 4 (1947-49; Malmö, Oct. 16, 1956), and No. 5 (1951-52; unfinished); Ode til Ensomheten (Ode to Silence; 1939); Violin Concerto (1940; Oslo, Oct. 24, 1947); Concerto for Piano and Chamber Orch. (1949-51; Oslo, Jan. 15, 1953). CHAMBER: Violin Sonata (1916); Piano Trio (1917-24); 2 string quartets (1928-29; 1930-31); Serenadefor Wind Quintet (1946-47). KEYBOARD: P i a n o : Legend (1907); 2 sonatas (1912; The Hound of Heaven,194CM1); 4 Pieces (1934-35); Variations (1935-36); Gavotte and Musette (1936); Prelude and Fugue (1937); 2 Preludes (1937); Intermezzo (1939-0). Organ: Prelude and Fugue (1939); Pastoral (1939). VOCAL: Ave Mariafor Soprano and Orch. (1917-21); Mignon, 2songs for Soprano and Orch., after Goethe (1920-27); Dearest Thou Now, O Soulfor Soprano and Orch., after Whitman (1920-28); 3 Gedichte von Goethefor Soprano and Orch. (1925-27); 2 chinesische Gedichtefor Soprano and Orch. (1925-27); La noche oscura del almafor Soprano and Orch., after St. John of the Cross (1939); motets.

Bibliography

O. Gurvin, F. V, En banebryter i nyere norsk musikk (F. V., a Pioneer in Norwegian Music; Oslo, 1962); B. Kortsen, Studies of Form in F. V.’s Music (Oslo, 1962); idem, Melodic Structure and Thematic Unity in F. V.’s Music (2 vols., Glasgow, 1963); idem, F. V, Life and Music (3 vols., Oslo, 1965); Anonymous, Komponisten F. V 1887-1952 (Oslo, 1976); P. Rapoport, Opus Est: Six Composers from Northern Europe (London, 1978).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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