The Apex bargain basement line continues to reissue
from the splendid Warner family coffers at a fantastic pace. Apex is
known for its no frills designs and budget notes (still more extensive
than others and perfectly adequate in this case.)
These Finlandia-derived tapes from the 1990s sound
very clean indeed and extremely natural. This unfussy and unadorned
pristine quality goes well with Nielsen and especially with the nature
reveries and rustic chivalry of the Violin Concerto. The two
strands hold each other in check. Too much reverie and the languor becomes
soporific. Too much exuberance and the results can be virtuosic but
vacuous. If you seek delicate tenderness in your Nielsen then Hannisdal
and Mikkelsen are the men for you. The orchestral contribution is handled
with loving kindness. There are moments, as in the protestations of
the strings in the finale, where the lack of refinement in the violins
shows through but in general this is a petal-strong delight fully aware
that the gestures are small but affecting. There is no call to try to
play this work as if it were a hyper-romantic brute.
The Suite is another delicate spray of flowers.
Its mood fits in well with the Sibelius's Rakastava and Valse
Triste. Rasilainen must have had a spring in his step on the day
he went into the recording studio for this has caught on infectiously
with the players. This is the best version I have heard of the Suite
- it is not a work widely recorded.
The Clarinet Concerto is taken in rather more
four-square and no-nonsense fashion - more so than the Violin Concerto.
I preferred the greater immediacy and more intimate acoustic of this
Warner to the BIS (Ole Schill). It is one of Nielsen's most oblique
and opaque works comparable with the Sixth Symphony. Kullervo Kojo is
an adroit and imaginative soloist attentive to the work's defiance as
well as its reticence.
This is a very likeable disc with good performances
all round. Nielsenites will find it provocative and inspirational. Its
draw lies in the Violin Concerto and a superbly sprung Suite.