The opening of the
Sibelius bodes well; lovely violin sound
and a beautifully spacious approach.
There are plenty of recordings that
open in a similarly spacious way but
most of them gradually pick up speed
to encompass passion as well as poetry.
This one stays spacious, with some passages
seemingly crawling along, but with a
remarkable sense of communing with nature.
Since Engeset also has a fine sense
of atmosphere this is an interesting
reading, to say the least.
A little surprisingly,
the "Adagio di molto", while
certainly not hustled, is kept rhythmically
taut. The result is attractive but possibly
avoids penetrating the furthest expressive
recesses of the music. The finale is
swift, brilliant and very exciting,
although in some ways a more powerful
effect can be obtained with a tempo
just a notch slower, since the orchestra’s
ostinatos become that much clearer.
The Sibelian gifts of both Kraggerud
and Engeset are strikingly evident in
the beautifully poetic serenade.
So this is a version
to consider, though there are others
that are more likely to bowl over the
first-time buyer. How does the Sinding
affect the equation?
Well, it certainly
shows that Scandinavians are not all
gloom and doom and as it burst in so
infectiously I felt, good for Sinding!
The finale, too, has sizzling vitality
and in between there is much generously
romantic writing and a slow movement
which rises from stark rumbles to a
strong climax. But I have to say that
Sinding’s actual themes are not particularly
individual or distinguished. If you
listen to almost any part of the concerto
for a few minutes at random you will
probably get the idea it’s marvellous
since it’s always either apparently
leading up to some mighty statement
or dying away to usher in some new moment
of hushed beauty. But when the mighty
statement or the new moment of hushed
beauty arrives there’s nothing much
to it. But still, it is a warm-hearted
affair, beautifully played on a Guarneri
instrument that once belonged to the
great Norwegian violinist Ole Bull,
and if you enjoy Max Bruch this is probably
on a level with his concertos except
no.1, and it is just about good enough
to make me wonder what this composer’s
other two concertos are like (remembering
that I was doubtful about his first
two symphonies but found the third a
worthy discovery). The Romance gets
its first recording here and it may
as well be its last since this, too,
is a compendium of pleasing romantic
short of the simple memorability of,
say, the Romance for violin and orchestra
by Dvořák, yet played with a wealth
of lovely tone and an obvious affection
which is hardly likely to be bettered.
The recordings are
very fine and the booklet note is good.