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Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Violin Concerto (1912) [34:33]
Clarinet Concerto (1928) [25:36]
Flute Concerto (1926) [17:42]
Saeka Matsuyama (violin); John McCaw (clarinet); Jennifer Stinton (flute)
Odense Symphony Orchestra/Jan Wagner (violin); New Philharmonia Orchestra/Raymond Leppard (clarinet); Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Steuart Bedford (flute)
rec. live 1999, Nielsen International Competition New York, licensed Bridge Records (violin); early 1970s, London, Unicorn-Kanchana (clarinet); 1991, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, licensed Collins Classics.
REGIS RRC 1208 [78:03]

Regis already have a strong Nielsen stable built around the still world-beating LSO/Ole Schmidt symphony cycle review. This concertos disc fills an obvious gap at bargain price. As for the coupling it is spot-on and has become an industry standard since Chandos first issued the three concertos on one CD in the early 1990s. These were estimable Danish versions conducted by Michael Schonwandt.

The Violin Concerto here appears in a performance packed with uproarious character and dreamy but not overheated fantasy. While not the last word in sharply delineated playing Saeko Matsuyama spares nothing in her commitment and her projection of character .... and that goes a long way in Nielsen. The concerto in this version struck me very strongly as linked with the Four Temperaments. This is a storming performance and the audience applause at the end is well deserved.

For various reasons the other two concertos are not as successful although good enough representations. The Clarinet Concerto is well despatched by McCaw. I remember this recording being released when there were few Nielsen LPs about. I found myself once or twice noticing a synthetic ambience, perhaps excessively scrubbed - a certain airlessness. The New Philharmonia did not strike me as fully at ease with the idiom. When compared with the coarser approach adopted by Drucker and Bernstein on a contemporary CBS recording the difference is instantly noticeable. Much the same can be said of Ib Eriksen's recording with Danish forces conducted by Jensen and available on Decca Eclipse at the time the McCaw was issued. A touch of the same criticism can be levelled at the ex-Collins Classics Flute Concerto. However the Scots orchestra are much closer to the spirit of the piece. Jennifer Stinton, whose work I have a great deal of time for, is here much better at the pastoral idyllic side of the Danish master than his grimacing raucous humour - perhaps the photograph of Ms Stinton which credits her hairdresser unintentionally tells us more about the approach. If you hear the CBS now Sony-BMG version by Bernstein and Julius Baker with the NYPO you are much closer to the rambunctious Nielsen we know and love.

This is from a repertoire point of view a natural coupling at bargain price. New-comers will do themselves no harm at all by snapping it up. However I would urge them also to hear the identically coupled Schønwandt CD on Chandos and the 1970s vintage EMI Classics collection conducted by Blomstedt. I have not heard the identically arranged Irish recordings on Naxos but hope to put that right one day. My first recommendation for all three concertos goes to Schønwandt and then Blomstedt. However if your prime interest is in the Violin Concerto then hesitate not for one moment, get this outstanding version and enjoy two other good but not prime versions of the flute and clarinet concertos.

Rob Barnett



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