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Twenty-Six Danish Violin Concertos - played by Kai LAURSEN (1924-1996)
DANACORD DACOCD 461-470
(10CD not available separately)


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INTRODUCTION

Ten discs, ten hours of music. Twenty-six Violin Concertos played by the estimable but sadly little known, the late Kai Laursen, in performances taped between the years 1966-78. The bulk derives from Danish Radio though a couple were privately recorded – the difference in sound quality is - it’s true - sometimes palpable but by no means significant. Everything here is thoughtfully presented and edited to perfection. The repertoire embraces a number of unfamiliar names – and familiar ones in unfamiliar garb. Influences are principally German – Mendelssohn and Leipzig loom large stylistically in some of the mid to late nineteenth century works, but his influence was liberating and not constricting; there is plenty of stylistic room to breathe here.

There are distinguishing and distinctive emotive and structural matters as well. It’s instructive to note how many of these works open in media res, with the violin protagonist plunging straight into the concerto; interesting, too, how many of the slow movements value lyricism over intensely expressive rhetoric, no matter how late Romantic the inspiration may be.

The notes by Morgens Wenzel Andreasen are informative, intelligent and thorough – in English and Danish as well. Where he takes a provocatively firm stance on some of these works he does so with illuminating freshness. The Danacord production team has worked to a high standard all round; such repertoire comprehensiveness doesn’t appear often – and it should be acknowledged and recognised when it does.

DACOCD 461
Claus SCHALL (1757-1835)
Concerto No. 4 for violin and orchestra in D major (May-July, 1790) [26:15]
Aalborg Symphony Orchestra/Alf Sjoen
Studio recording, Aalborg Handvaerkerforening, May 3, 1970. MONO

A longer-lasting contemporary of Mozart this is an explicitly Mozartian concerto, one of five Schall wrote for the violin (he also wrote one for the violin and cello and for two violins). Fine hunting horns fleck the orchestral introduction which also features some pleasing orchestral diminuendi; there’s plenty of energetic passagework for the soloist and plenty of work on the E – Laursen’s silvery tone copes admirably though there is occasional untidiness early on. More expressive diminuendi in the second movement, fluttery and plangent, but the lyric line tends toward indeterminacy but which does lead directly to the jaunty rondo finale. There’s good writing for the lower strings and, Mozartian to a fault, plenty of contrastive material as well. Unlike Mozart’s concertos though Schall dispenses with the throwaway ending and ends in an amiably decisive flourish.

Niels W. GADE (1817-1890)
Capriccio for violin and orchestra in A minor (1878) [8:00]
Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Carl von Garaguly
Studio recording, Musikhuset, Sonderborg, December 21, 1976. STEREO

Like the Mendelssohn E minor and like a number of the concertos here the violin pitches in almost immediately. Sunny and wistful (and orchestrated by Carl Reinecke with his accustomed expertise) this is a work full of bounce, though I’d prefer to hear it in its original guise for violin and piano. There’s particularly attractive relaxation at lyrical moments (try 5.40 in the first movement). At eight minutes in length it has absolutely no chance on the concert stage but on the recital platform it would make an appealing visitor.

Launy GRØNDAHL (1886-1960)
Concerto for violin and orchestra in D major, op. 6 (1917) [22:11]
Aalborg Symphony Orchestra/Jens Schroder
Studio recording, Aalborg Handvaerkerforening, June 6, 1967. MONO
(This release is based on a private amateur tape recording)

We know Grøndahl as a conductor but he was originally a violinist and writes idiomatically for his instrument. The recording comes via an amateur tape so some, though by no means mountainous, latitude should be extended to limited dynamic ranges and the like. Nevertheless it’s of sufficient quality still to allow one to appreciate Grøndahl’s warm-heartedness (sample at 3.40 in the first movement) in this 1917 work. Entering again almost immediately once more the soloist spins a line of twilit romanticism in the slow movement whilst whooping horns welcome the arrival of the cathartic third movement. There is some rapid and bustly folk-fiddle here which leads on to some luscious material – before a jaunty and breezy conclusion – with some slashing solo work along the way, Laursen in fine form here.


DACOCD 462
Johannes Frederick FROHLICH (1806-1860)
Concertino for violin and orchestra in D major, op. 14 (1826) [15:53]
Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Carl von Garaguly
Studio recording, Musikhuset, Sonderborg. April 18, 1978. STEREO

As with Beethoven’s, Frohlich’s Concerto is in D major (like Grøndahl so many years later Frohlich was an accomplished fiddle player). Avuncular and – frankly – of limited interest the second movement impresses most with its lyrical and explicitly vocalised impress (not for nothing was he also an extensive composer for the theatre). The finale as well maintains a quasi-operatic feel, full of showpiece finery, with endless roulades and bristling left hand action.

Emil HARTMANN (1836-1898)
Concerto for violin and orchestra in G minor. Op. 19 (before 1880) [23:19]
Aalborg Symfoni Orkester/Jens Schroder
Studio recording, Aalborg Handvaerkerforening. April 10, 1968. MONO

Popular in Germany – as were a number of these composers, many of whom studied there – this is as strongly a Mendelssohnian concerto as Schall’s had been Mozartian. The orchestration is glossier and more romanticised than its model though Hartmann has a precious knack of thinning the supporting instrumentation with real acumen and a craftsman’s ear for sonority. The first movement cadenza is especially well worked. The second movement is delightfully and disarmingly lyrical – but contains some sonorous descents to the G string for more emotive, contrastive sections. This presages an echt Romantic outburst full of combustible activity as well judged as it is splendid - before a return to the opening lyricism. I like the way the solo violin "answers" the orchestra’s somewhat intemperate and stentorian line but this movement inevitably perhaps suffers from "Finale Fatigue." The finale problem is not ideally resolved though the way Laursen digs chewily into the string in the cadenza shows spirited commitment.

Henning WELLEJUS (b. 1919)
Concerto for violin and orchestra in A minor (1948, revised 1968) [22:21]
Aalborg Symfoni Orkester/Jens Schroder
Studio recording, Aalborghallen, Aalborg, February 6, 1975. STEREO (first performance of rev. version)

Wellejus’s Concerto was re-written twenty years after its first performance. A pupil of Erik Tarp, Wellejus has constructed an intriguing work with ear-catching sonorities. The solo violin line in the first of the three movements is a compound of folk-displaced neo-classicism; there are some delightfully inflected running orchestral pizzicati supportive of the soloist, punchy trumpets, skirling strings and baleful trombones. The solo fiddle picks up a rather emphatic, if jaunty, melody along the way that is gradually taken up and absorbed by the orchestra and mused over and upon; most attractive. A solo trumpet haunts the Passacaglia second movement; there are distinct hints not of Shostakovich, as one might expect from the Passacaglia, but of Prokofiev here. The see-sawing lyricism is distinctly impressive. The chirpy rhythm and sawing bass line that starts the finale alerts one to the vitality of Wellejus’s creative imagination. I especially liked the chewy lower string episode for the soloist who acquits himself with distinction.

DACOCD463
Johan SVENDSEN (1840-1911)
Concerto for violin and orchestra in A major, op. 6 (1869-70) [28:56]
Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Carl von Garaguly
Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, June 19, 1968. MONO

Svendsen is terra cognita as far as the majority of his violin works are concerned. That said many will be unfamiliar with the A major, which is a product of an alert mind and an idiomatic understanding of the potential of the post-Mendelssohnian concerto. The long opening paragraph of leaping lyricism that initiates the, itself, long first movement (some sixteen minutes in length) shows us Laursen’s silvery tone and a real degree of noble expressivity. The tremolando that Svendsen introduces is idiomatic (reflecting his youthful Leipzig training in its practical application) but here and there the thematic material doesn’t bind as tightly as it should and there is a meandering element to part of the movement. The slow movement is by contrast very strongly characterised – with poetic lyricism and dramatic outbursts to contrast with the concentrated melody of the movement. The rondo finale is a sweetly avuncular affair that soon launches itself into some rather grandly declamatory writing.

Ludwig HOLM (1858-1928)
Concerto for violin and orchestra in G major (1916) [36:00]
Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Carl von Garaguly
Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, December 16, 1970. MONO

Holm was a contemporary of Nielsen. His concerto was written at the height of the First World War and though performed at the time and subsequently it soon drifted from notice until rediscovered in the late 1950s. As with so many of the composers here, Holm was a more than competent violinist, an orchestral leader and front rank chamber player but this is said to be his only orchestral composition. If so that has been something of a loss because this is a most impressive work. The longish orchestral introduction has some distinctive points of instrumentation – the verdant clarinet piping its own welcome to the solo violinist’s first phrase and the violin’s musing abstraction. There is richly involved orchestral material, little moments of interior rapture, the passage for horn and violin (gorgeously intimate) and the hush at 15.40 – pregnant, full of meaning – just before the onrush of the jaunty and virtuosic close of the movement. The slow movement is intensely lyrical if not perhaps quite so full of incident as the first. The finale however opens in ceremonial garb, exotic, with a vaguely Brahmsian stamp and some increasingly free-wheeling joviality and drive, a delightfully aerated and fulsome close to the work. The Editor when reviewing this called it "a major discovery" and I’ll second that with enthusiasm. Violinists of the world - get out there and play it.

DACO464
Axel GADE (1860-1921)
Concerto No. 2 for violin and orchestra in F major, op. 10 (1899) [28:47]
Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Jens Schroder
Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, June 14, 1972. STEREO

In the Bible of Danish violin dynasties, Niels begat Axel who did bring forth a Concerto in F (amongst other things). I wish I could be more enthusiastic but it’s rather a generic work for a Gade to have written. It’s certainly idiomatically constructed, with a sweetly lyrical first movement, nicely orchestrated, light and decorous, very late Romantic with definite hints of Dvořák and his own violin concerto at the close. The slow movement is an affectionate little intermezzo and the finale dances and tumbles. But not enough meat for me.

Peder GRAM (1881-1956)
Concerto for violin and orchestra in D major, op. 20 (1919) [25:56]
Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Carl von Garaguly
Studio recording, Frihedshallen, Sonderborg, June 13, 1967. MONO

Gram sounds to have been a strangely tight-lipped man – Leipzig-trained, abhorring Mahler; he also resolutely banned all performances of his own music on radio during his long tenure as Director of Danish Radio. Laursen even tried to interest Gram in a performance of the Concerto but to no avail. It’s a spare and knowledgeably put together work with the violin’s line at times seemingly independent of the orchestral material, soaring as if utterly abstracted from the context in which it finds it’s the protagonist. The central movement has some expert wind counterpoint and warm strings, the soloist pursuing his aloof line. The mountainous horns that begin the finale announce a strongly lyrical movement. There’s repose at 6.20 before a brassy finale.

Rued LANGGAARD (1893-1952)
Concerto in one movement for violin and orchestra (August, 1943) BVN 289 [8:47]
Odense Symphony Orchestra/Aksel Wellejus
Studio recording (first performance), Fyns Forsamlingshus. Odense, January 10, 1968. MONO

This is a short one-movement, old-fashioned piece, full of Langgaard’s time-travelling oddity. He uses a piano in the score not as a rhythmic neo-classicist device but for its colouristic potential. There is some fractious flame along the journey. We hear predominantly flute sonorities and rippling piano work as well as a wealth of nineteenth century invention. Perplexing and enjoyable.

DACOCD 465
August ENNA (1859-1939)

Concerto for violin and orchestra in D major (1897) [22:57]
Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Carl von Garaguly
Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, December 20, 1966. MONO

An operatic and theatre composer and admirer of verismo, Enna was himself the son of Italian immigrants. Well written for the instrument but somewhat repetitious thematically the first movement presents a lot of fireworks, registral changes, and Vieuxtemps-like business. This is one occasion on which Laursen is on less than impressive form, as well; he sounds highly uncomfortable, plays with unexpected roughness and his intonation wanders. The second movement offers deliberate hints of Leoncavallo, a lot of work for the violinist in alt, and a palpably theatrical impress – with some deeper flavours embedded. The finale is a generous if rather generically fluttery one, with energetic passagework making up for a lack of real inspiration.

Hakon BØRRESEN (1876-1954)
Concerto for violin and orchestra in G major, Op. 11 (1904) [28:24]
Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Carl von Garaguly
Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, August 20, 1975

Børreson’s concerto opens in arresting fashion; abruptly and leading to a lyrical second subject, lightly but precisely orchestrated and deft for all its romantic affiliations. A stern, rather unyielding orchestral figure is prominently juxtaposed with the solo violin’s spinning romance, added to which Børreson adduces some exultantly generous lyricism to his canvas. This is all most attractive and so is the beautifully crafted slow movement with its magnificent string orchestral writing and the eloquent solo line. The finale – flirtatious and teasing – ends in some slashing echt-Romantic rhetoric.

DACOCD 466
P. E. LANGE-MULLER (1850-1926)
Concerto for violin and orchestra in C major, op. 69 (1904) [21:21]
Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Peter Ernst Lassen
Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, May 31, 1966. MONO

In this concerto, dating from 1904 and nicely constructed, Lange-Muller gives the solo a dancing and slipping line and some attractive turns of phrase, confident nuances. The slow movement is melodious and songful and the finale pulsatingly lively, full of peacock display and surety, colour and subtle orchestration. It’s hardly over-generous in matters of intellectual depth but it has an utterly different stance; one of good humour and unaffected engagement.

Siegfried SALOMON (1885-1962)
Concerto for violin and orchestra in G minor, op. 26 (1916) [21:52]
Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Alf Sjoen
Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, May 13, 1970. MONO

Salomon – cellist, theatre conductor and composer – wrote his concerto in 1916, the same year as Holm’s was premiered but there the similarities end. Occasionally stern orchestral outbursts disrupt the opening movement – along with some vexatious solo violin writing – and the movement ends in suitably splendid grandeur. The slow movement has some nicely delineated wind and lower brass writing – the orchestration here can tend to the saturnine, and the material can hot up attractively, though the repose remains intact. We have a bustly finale, essentially genial, but with one or two rather mordant points of interest along the way. Nothing spectacular here, but well crafted.

Gustav HELSTED (1857-1924)
Concerto for violin and orchestra in B minor, op. 27 (1909) [21:45]
Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Carl von Garaguly
Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, June 13, 1974. STEREO

Helsted’s Concerto dates from 1909 and is full of subtly good things. His orchestration for a start is expert. He can spin an attractive lyrical line. His solo violin is an extrovert creature in the opening movement – though even Laursen is troubled high up – but in the slow movement he yields generously. This movement develops a constantly ascending and striving line, clotted perhaps at first hearing but still full of twisting and yearning that leads eventually to reflection and innocent contemplation. The finale sports some delightfully imitative passages between violin and woodwind – and there’s impetus a-plenty and some pretty tough and gritty writing for the soloist, alternating with real lyrical drive. As Elgar would have written - good.

DACOCD467
Niels W. GADE (1817-1890)
Concerto for violin and orchestra in D minor, op. 56 (1880) [26:10]
Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Ole Schmidt
Concert recording from Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, February 3, 1966. MONO

Songful, propulsive with fine orchestration (chugging rhythms too and animated and aerated woodwinds) this is cut from the Leipzig cloth. With its affably generous slow movement, neat and lyrical, and the verdant finale, Mendelssohnian and spry, this is a cosmopolitan and ultimately affectionate piece. I suppose it stands in relation to its obvious models as Sterndale Bennett’s Piano Concertos do to its. Joachim played it – though it’s fair to say that Joachim was generous toward a lot of new music – and its attractiveness is as undeniable as its lack of genuine personality is explicit.

Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Concerto for violin and orchestra, op 33 (1911) 34:21
Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Mariss Jansons
Concert from Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, given on the occasion of Kai Laursen's 25th anniversary as first violinist, January 24, 1978. MONO (This release is based on a private amateur tape recording)

Laursen’s performance of the undisputed masterpiece of this set survives via the agency of a private tape recording. From Telmányi onwards the Nielsen has had its place on record, though I can’t remember when a soloist last consistently championed it in the concert hall. Telmányi and Tellefsen always do it for me – the Editor recommends Kim Sjøgren, Cho Liang-Lin and Dong Suk-Kang as well though I’ve not heard them – but Laursen is a fully committed and involved soloist, typically warm-hearted, vesting the score with his characteristic intelligence and tonal resources.

DACOCD468
Otto MALLING (1848-1915)
Fantasia for violin and orchestra in F major, op. 20 (c. 1885) [13:35]
Aarhus Symphony Orchestra/Jorma Panula
Studio recording, Aarhushallen, February 20, 1975. STEREO

Dating from circa 1885 Malling’s Fantasia is a Konzertstück type of affair, such as Bruch turned out, though it doesn’t bear any kind of similarity with Bruch’s works in a similar form. Malling was an administrator and a late starter, compositionally. But he had a solid grounding, writing a text on orchestration, and displaying all the signs of superior craft here in this thirteen-minute work. Pensively flowing, with rushing and onrushing figures (most attractive) before embracing more obviously animated and perky figures this is a true Fantasia and most enjoyable.

Axel GADE (1860-1921)
Concerto No. 1 for violin and orchestra in D major (1889) [23:41]
Aarhus Symphony Orchestra/Aksel Wellejus
Studio recording, Aarhushallen, March 13, 1978. STEREO

Gade’s First Concerto (the second, from a decade later is also included in the set and reviewed above) is an airy, quicksilver affair with plenty of display material for the agile soloist. The second movement Romanza is energetic and witty, the final recapitulation of material (though it’s all of not-quite-four minutes in length) bringing with it a truly joyful affection, the violin pirouetting above the pert orchestral melodies. The third movement Intermezzo (this is a four movement concerto, very unusually) starts with a somewhat bluffly romantic outlook but develops real lyricism, motifs supported by lower brass. The finale (scherzando e grazioso) is nutritious and most impressive. This concerto is in every way a cohesive advance on the earlier work; it doesn’t seem to have made any mark even in Denmark and that’s a shame.

Knudåge RIISAGER (1897-1974)
Concerto for violin and orchestra in A minor, op. 54 (1950-51) [23:29]
Aarhus Symphony Orchestra/Aksel Wellejus
Studio recording, Aarhushallen, May, 1973. STEREO

I’ve recently reviewed a little of Riisager’s music in a Danish orchestral set taken from historical performances (including the Trumpet Concertino of blessed memory). Everything I’ve heard of his has been brimful of incident and suggestive colour. His Concerto is no exception. The concerto was premiered by that excellent violinist Wandy Tworek but the revised version was given by Laursen. It’s in two movements, the first Tranquillo and the second Vivo and yet if this suggests a schematic bipartite division, the truth turns out to be different. This is a subtle and beautiful work and the assumption of slow-fast is not, in practice, quite so obvious. The twilit opening is profoundly reflective with intriguing orchestral light flecking the score; there are modal hints along the way but also some rough and abrupt brass interjections that scour the essentially lyrical violin line. The sonorities Riisager conjures are marvellously evocative; listen at 9.25 to the beautifully phrased violin line. Riisager’s lyrical gift was pronounced in the extreme. The vivo second movement – shorter than the first movement – is flexible and subtle with its orchestral suspensions and rather hieratic brass voicings adding hugely to the aural pleasure. The solo violin meanwhile grows ever more yearningly emotive – even in the face of the brass choirs’ insinuating majesty of expression. In fact the violin is more reflective than lyrical here before embarking on an involved and involving cadenza. After which, as if released from the emotive intensities of the work, the movement gloriously lightens, its open-air freedoms release first the horns – now perky – and the strings (now open hearted). In its turn the solo violin flutters and flecks deliciously, light as a lark feather, before a throw-away ending of Mozartian subtlety and timing. Here’s a concerto that deserves three commercial recordings and performances to boot. It won’t get them, alas, but that won’t alter my unstinting admiration for it.

DACOCD 469
Eyvin ANDERSEN (1914-1968)
Concerto for violin and orchestra (1964) [30:38]
Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Alf Sjoen
Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, May 10, 1975 (first performance) STEREO

Andersen, organist, violinist and teacher, wrote this concerto for his son, Jan, in 1964. Its first performance came in this stereo broadcast eleven years later – fine sound by the way (the sound in these twenty-six concertos does vary, dependent on date and means of recording; at the lower end from hand-held cassette to occasionally muffled but is broadly fine. I had no real problems). It begins with hints of neo-classicism and more of Prokofiev, a potent influence. It’s certainly brusque and impatient but expertly laid out for the instrument. Some of the violin’s leaps are interrupted by a brief moment of lyricism before redoubled intensity breaks out again. The orchestral "repose" turns out to be poisoned; the solo violin’s line is cursive. The second movement is solemn with occasional orchestral bursts – sorrowful, tough. The densely motoric finale is accompanied by a number of more reflective moments – complete with a virtuoso array of bowing effects. The bass is stern, unyielding. The work finishes in media res – unresolved, puzzling. I like Andersen’s confidence – his technique is undoubted, his schema essentially uncontroversial, his resolute modernity not untouched by reflection. That said this is a tricky listen but worthwhile.

Niels Viggo BENTZON (b. 1919-2001)
Concerto No. 2 for violin and orchestra (1961) [28:04]
Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Alf Sjoen
Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, May 26, 1975. STEREO

Danacord have programmed two difficult works on this disc. Bentzon’s – from 1961 – opens with floated sonorities, wisps in the orchestral score. A tough and jauntier theme is slowly unveiled and this moves us on to an episode of motoric, vaguely neo-classical drive. March themes appear, an accompanied mini-cadenza, increasing introspection and convoluted lyricism. This it has to be said is a distinctly Bentzonian lyricism and audible despite the abrasive writing elsewhere. The second movement is unsettled, flirting with tone rows, withdrawn and insinuating. The orchestra explores collective sonority – from high voices to low – but in the finale a renewed sense of energy is exuded, cell-like growths, the violin’s line seeming almost frivolous before the orchestra reasserts itself, powerfully. The cadenza – splendid – leads to a triumphant, Old School conclusion.

DACOCD 470
Jens Laursen EMBORG (1876-1957)
Concerto for violin and orchestra, op. 48 (1926) [17:50]
Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Carl von Garaguly
Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, June 12, 1969. MONO

This slightly more than quarter of an hour 1926 Concerto is a winner. I wouldn’t say it’s a masterpiece – it’s not – but it’s an enjoyable and pleasing product from the Danish Inspector of Music. Opening in attractively hobble-toed fashion bells soon announce a warm-hearted animation. This burgeons into a heavily-accented bass line and burnished hunting horns and more flecking bells, the bristle of neo-classicism filtered through Emborg’s imagination. I’m sure there’s some kind of narrative here but there’s no evidence of it in the notes. I liked the slow movement – quiet and lyrical (in the main these Danish concertos exhibit slow movements that seem to value lyricism above heady emotionalism). The finale is incisive, rhythmically sophisticated and flexible; after the cadenza we return to the opening spirit of the work, full of reverie, a kind of cyclical innocence, but also full of fire; the bells nourishing the work to a delicious close.

Leif THYBO (b. 1922)
Concerto for violin and orchestra (1969) [28:34]
Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Carl-August Vogt
Concert recording from Frihedshallen, Sonderborg, February 10, 1971. MONO

Organist, transcriber and professor Thybo wrote a fine cello concerto. The 1969 Violin Concerto was written for Laursen and the performance here dates from two years later. It opens with intriguing harmonies, the violin entering quietly. It moves quickly to some commanding and interrogatory passages, exploring extremes of emotive states. There’s plenty of unresolved tension here, ruminative but cagey. The middle section of the first movement is one of cohesive if spiky romanticism, an energetic march appears too menacing and ends in a spectacularly unresolved outburst. The slow movement is crepuscular and the violin pursues a somewhat etiolated course whilst the finale is brittle, driven and unyielding.

Vagn HOLMBOE (1909-1996)
Concerto 9 per violino, viola et orchestra, op. 39 (1968) [19:15]
Erik Spillemose, viola
Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Carl von Garaguly
Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, June 19, 1969. MONO

I admire Holmboe as one of the great twentieth century symphonists. His Concerto shares many features with those hauntingly powerful, utterly human statements. The 1968 Concerto opens with powerful brass attacks, attacks familiar from the implacable symphonies. The two soloists dance away, supported by appositely light orchestration. The mood is generously lyrical and a magnetic peroration and cadenza for the soloists – they flutter wonderfully, the emotional temperature judged to perfection. The second movement is entirely unaccompanied; the viola starts and the violin joins, both parts full of rich invention and texture and depth of thematic material. The finale lightens everything: folk fiddling and glorious sonorities with a mini cadenza and animated, lashing optimism, bird soars, the orchestra joining in with see-sawing ebullience, the whole work reeking of life force and generosity.

SUMMARY

Laursen proves himself time and again to be an august and superbly equipped exponent of the repertoire. Where he essays an undisputed masterpiece, the Nielsen, he does so with commitment and fervour. He opened my ears to Holm in particular, though everything he does is accomplished. Signs of frailty are few; his energy unflagging. There’s a great deal here to stimulate and excite. Hats off to Danacord.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Rob Barnett



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