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CD: Crotchet
Download: Classicsonline

Romantic Violin Concertos
Rued LANGGAARD (1893-1952)
Concerto in one movement for violin and orchestra BVN 289 (1943) [9:33]
Peter Erasmus LANGE-MULLER (1850-1926)
Concerto for violin and orchestra in C major, op 69 (1902) [24:56]
Niels W. GADE (1817-1890)
Concerto for violin and orchestra in D minor, op 56 (1880) [26:58]
Christina Åstrand (violin)
Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra/John Storgärds
rec. October 2008, Tampere Concert Hall
DACAPO 6.220562 [61:27]
Experience Classicsonline

How we miss Kai Laursen. The indefatigable fiddler however did leave behind a sheaf of recordings of his native music. And he left behind performances of all three of these concertos as part of his monumental series devoted to Violin Concertos [try Danacord 464-467 for these ones]. Still, that was a long while ago now and his performances simply can’t compete, at least sonically, with these SACD inscriptions.

The Laursen recording of Gade’s Concerto comes from 1966 and is in mono. It’s a reference classic but let’s put it to one side for now. I’ve praised Christina Åstrand for her recent recording of all three Gade Violin Sonatas and I’m not going back on my word. She deals well and justly with its fluent romanticism, its Mendelssohnian lineage. The opening is hyper-romantic in that respect; she also takes the central movement slower than Laursen, aerating its warmth with great textural facility. The finale is engaging, wholesome and freewheeling if just a bit faceless; the finale problem emerges here, though this is no fault of Åstrand and conductor John Storgärds.

Lange-Muller’s Concerto however is a standout. You must hear it. It was first performed in 1904 by Axel Gade, son of Niels which makes a neat connecting point. As befits this most voice-rich of composers the themes are decidedly vocalised but there are also distinctive melodic and harmonic forces at work here that lift the work well beyond the ordinary plane. The orchestration is rich and attractive, and not overladen. Maybe Grieg drifts over the slow movement a little too insistently but that’s no bad thing in my book; Peer Gynt glimmers delightfully. Åstrand takes her time in the finale - more so than the more compact Laursen - and enjoys its reflective passages over rich orchestral pizzicato. If my own preference is for a faster tempo here, there’s no doubting the instrumental strengths on offer nor the conviction with which she measures her argument. As I said try to hear this work - it’s a real delight.

Finally we have a veritable pocket concerto along the lines of Valen’s similar work. This is the very different 1943 Concerto of Rued Langgaard. As usual with him there are exciting things abounding. There’s a piano in the texture which provides occasional interludes, cadential violin passages, and a typically quirky and individualist approach to chronology and to style. It’s a brilliant nine minutes’ worth of your time and money - and has substance.

The SACD recording is first class with a fulsome acoustic in the Tampere Concert Hall. Åstrand has begun to don Laursen’s mantle. Long may she continue to retrieve such works and present them to us so richly.

Jonathan Woolf 




















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