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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



THE NORDIC CELLO - Music for Solo Cello
Hilding ROSENBERG (1892-1985)

Intermezzo (1974)

Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)

Theme and Variations (c. 1887)

Arne NORDHEIM (b.1931)

Clamavi (1980)

Atli Heimir SVEINSSON (b.1938)

Dal regno del silenzio (1989)

Niels Viggo BENTZON (1919-2000)

Variations on The Volga Boatmen Op.354 (1974)
Erling Blöndahl Bengtsson (cello)
rec 23, 26 March 2001, Sorgenfri Church, Denmark
DANACORD DACOCD 554 [57.01]


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Any new recording from Bengtsson is likely to be an event. So it proves here. Danacord must take pride in having Bengtsson on their roster of artists although I must stress that this is a disc where the emphasis is on the music rather than on artist adulation.

The Rosenberg is a cross between the lyric flow of Vaughan Williams' Lark Ascending but with emotional excess staunched by the sort of reserve we find in the music of Arnold Cooke. The Intermezzo is a rewrite of the second movement of a Cello Concerto premiered by Guido Vecchi in 1939 but immediately withdrawn. This is not to be confused with Rosenberg's 1953 Cello Concerto. The Sibelius is an earlyish work in Bachian style and crowded amid a host of chamber music from the 1870s and 1880s.

Both the Norwegian Nordheim and the Icelandic Sveinsson are works in a more modernistic vein. They are substantial essays (12.47 and 10.54) and pair well. While modern they are not avant-garde and remain plugged firmly into the lyrical mould of the instrument. No tricks or 'new-fangled' percussive activity is required. Nordheim is pretty well known but Sveinsson's is not a familiar name. He studied with Stockhausen. Both works either explore darkness or take darkness as their springboard.

Bentzon's profuse productivity is still being exposed. The Volga Boatmen variations is the latest disclosure. This lacks nothing in vivacious vitality and Bengtsson seems empathetic with the idiom which is far less testing than the Nordheim or Sveinsson. The Theme (well known but here held up to a modest refraction) is followed by eight variations and a return to the theme. This is the most inventive and lively music on the disc. There is no hint of boredom floundering out of the pretence of reflection. Bentzon (who died last year) also wrote three cello concertos. I wonder if it has occurred to Danacord to issue all three (perhaps on a single disc)? They already have Bengtsson in Bentzon's Sixteen Etudes for solo cello Op. 464 (1985) on DACOCD 478. Bengtsson is caught in full and controlled flood in the superbly resinous Presto.

The recording is of startling clarity capturing Bengtsson's gutsy delivery. Listen to the undamped humming resonance of the Nordheim at 01.02. In the debit column the high fidelity capture of Bengtsson's breathy engagement (and at track 19 his vocalisation) might cause a few to glower. I do not find it a problem but if you are allergic to this sort of thing do try to sample the disc first.

Rob Barnett

www.danacord.dk


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