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Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Violin Concerto in D minor Op.47 (1903 revised 1905)
Serenade in G minor Op.69b (1913)
Christian SINDING (1856-1941)

Violin Concerto No.1 in A major Op.45 (1898)
Romance in D major Op.100 (1910)
Henning Kraggerud (violin)
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Bjarte Engeset
Recorded at the Lighthouse Centre for the Arts, Dorset, June 2003

Here’s a well-balanced Finno-Norwegian disc that presents a major concerto leavened by a shorter work for violin and orchestra. Kraggerud’s Sibelius Concerto is relatively measured in its opening movement and the soloist enters without that distracting "white" tone so beloved of some superstar fiddlers; his tone is properly warmed with vibrato (and not on/off vibrato either) but I felt concerned that he then piled on the tone in a orgy of opulent lower string passion; there were brief moments of intonational difficulty here (2.05) and the soloist’s sniffs attest to the close up recording set up. The phrasing and tone strike me as overwrought and there are moments in this first movement when momentum hangs fire and the cadential passage is only variable. The slow movement is much better, attractive in fact – but vitiated only by too much undifferentiated vibrato usage, because we could have done with more subtlety of colouration then Kraggerud gives. I liked the orchestral detail in the finale, even though there is some smudgy solo work here and there – though the harmonics are bang on. This is a taut and forward-looking conception and never really plumbs those titanic, granitic-triumphalist approaches that leave one so involved.

Coupled with this masterpiece we have the First Concerto of Sinding, written in 1898, and a splendid example of a composer who has been feasting for so long on Bruch’s Scottish Fantasia (1880) that he can’t get it out of his head. Sinding – no hanging around – pitches us straight in and there’s a deal of late nineteenth century virtuoso rhetoric amongst the rich romanticism, with lyrical subsidiary themes and even a touch of proto-Elgarian swagger at one moment. The slow movement is orchestrally forest-bleak over which the solo violin spins its line; by turns auburn and stern we lead straight to the finale. This is winningly bustly, with a good "pompous" tune, a bit of Tchaikovsky, more Bruch, some Brahms Violin and Double Concerto rhythms but also – the high point – a reverie of intimacy and lyric suggestiveness embedded as well. This is a work that’s been recorded before – by Tellefsen and further back, on LP, by Hugh Bean (neither of which I’ve heard).

The two concertante works are good; atmospheric Sibelius and the previously unrecorded Sinding Romance in D major of 1910 – whose passionate lyricism put me in mind of the close of the concerto.

The notes are good but the recording balance sometimes gets too close to the violin. I listened to a SACD hybrid but on ordinary equipment so can’t attest to its potential. The Sinding is an enjoyable piece – good to hear – but not one to pull you back, except for the finale perhaps.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Chris Howell

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