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premiered by Guido Vecchi in 1939 but immediately withdrawn.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
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.