Christian Sinding is today known to most music-lovers outside
Norway for his piano piece Frühlingsrauschen
of Spring) and nothing else. During his lifetime he was highly
regarded also abroad. His oeuvre encompasses, among other things:
four symphonies, three violin concertos, a piano concerto, a
fair amount of chamber music, a large number of piano music,
more than 250 solo songs, choral music and an opera. Some years
ago Henning Kraggerud recorded Sinding’s first violin concerto,
in harness with Sibelius concerto (Naxos 8.557266) and there
is also a very fine disc with songs (Naxos 8.553905N), sung by
Sinding studied in Germany and lived there for much of his life.
In the 1920s he taught composition for a couple of years at the
Eastman School of Music in Rochester in USA but the last years
of his life he lived in Norway where he also died. Just a few
weeks before he died he was entered into the Norwegian Nazi party,
which led to his music being largely boycotted for many years
after the war. It seems, though, that the circumstances surrounding
his membership were rather suspect. Like Knut Hamsun, the Nobel
Prize winner, who also showed Nazi sympathies, Sinding was in
a state of senile dementia. Earlier he had fought for the rights
of Jewish musicians and was a close friend of Nordahl Grieg,
the Norwegian war hero.
Sinding’s instrument was the violin and the first impression
of this disc is of truly idiomatic writing for the instrument.
His musical style is full-bloodedly romantic, more Central European
than typically Nordic. There is nothing of the folkloristic tone
that is so characteristic of his compatriot Grieg. Knowing many
of his songs, which are melodically attractive and eminently
singable, it comes as no surprise to find the same kind of vocal
quality here. The violin is frequently asked to sing and several
of the titles refer to singing: Cantus doloris, Alte Weise,
All this music is very attractive, though
hardly barnstorming or particularly original. The only well known
composition is the Suite im alten Stil
, Op. 10, which
has been in the repertoire of all the great violinists from Kreisler
and Heifetz to Ruggiero Ricci and Itzhak Perlman. There are numerous
recordings, often in the version for violin and orchestra in
Sinding’s own arrangement. Henning Kraggerud recorded that
version more than ten years ago (Naxos 8.554497) and I heard
him playing it at about the time, when he was little more than
twenty. He showed a dazzling technique and remarkable beauty
of tone. Today he is one of the foremost violinists worldwide
and the suite in its original version is just as dazzling.
His silken tone also seems ideally suited to the rest of the
music and his noble playing may make it sound even better than
it is. He is also superbly partnered by Christian Ihle Hadland,
whom I praised not long ago in connection with a song recital
by Isa Katharina Gericke (review
He has moreover written the fine liner-notes.
The Suite im alten Stil
is the definite masterpiece here,
and the disc is worth the price for those thirteen minutes alone.
But lovers of violin music will almost certainly be enthralled
by many of the other pieces as well - and they will probably
never hear this music better played. I am eagerly looking forward
to volume 2, which is in the pipeline.