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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

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Romantic Violin Sonatas
Hakon BØRRESEN (1876-1954)
Violin Sonata in A Minor op. 13 (1907) [22:24]
Louis GLASS (1864-1936)
Violin Sonata in E flat major op. 7 (1888) [27:53]
Fini HENRIQUES (1867-1940)
Mazurka for violin and piano op. 35 (1911) [5:39]
Wiegenlied (c. 1915) [2:55]
Arne Balk-Møller (violin)
Christina Bjørkøe (piano)
rec. Carl Nielsen Academy of Music, Odense, 29-31 March 2000, 22-24 Sept 2004. DDD
DACAPO 8.226005 [59:08]


Both Glass and Børresen have done comparatively well in the recording stakes since the mid-1990s. Both are saturated romantics with Børresen in particular clearly indebted to Schumann and Tchaikovsky.
 
Børresen’s 1907 violin sonata is a no-holds-barred exercise in romantic indulgence. Its singing line yearns and sighs, storms and ardently triumphs. If the second movement toys with metropolitan café culture it’s a passing influence. That voice is well and truly sunk by the Rachmaninovian climax at 4:40. Rather like the First Symphony and the Tchaikovskian Violin Concerto - recorded together on Dacapo - this is a successful work and when played with exhausting passion, as here, it works well indeed. The performance is made memorable and distinctive by Balk-Møller’s lip-trembling emotionality carried by her sometimes febrile sound. This is to be contrasted with her dramatic vehemence at the close of the finale.  The recording is big and squares up well to the challenges of such romantic effusion. Listen for example to the resounding pay-off climax to the first movement of the Børresen.
 
Across its four movements the Glass is even more fluent, fluid and warm-hearted - perhaps too much for its own good. While the Børresen could pass for the Danish equivalent of the Franck this is perhaps closer to Saint-Saëns. This is even clearer in the playful Scherzo with its man-about-town, cane-twirling charm. The finale - in duration symmetry with the first movement - trots gracefully along. Its concern with elegance and charm makes for winning ways. It’s a pity because we know from his Fifth Symphony of almost two decades later that he could write music of remarkably Tchaikovskian quality. This piece is of a much earlier vintage when he was still finding his voice. Pleasing invention all the same.
 
Henriques’s 1911 Mazurka is a show-piece with all the whistling and cackling tricks in the book. It’s like a conflation of Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre, Wieniawski, Kreisler and Sibelius’s Humoresques. After these antics comes a suavely slippery cradle song written rather like Glass’s contemporary Fifth Symphony as if the battlefields of Europe were not awash in carnage. Still the final descent into slumber is lovingly done with a sigh and from Balk-Møller a steadiness of tone way down to pianissimo and into sweet silence.
 
Dacapo have done this as winningly as usual. Just one typical example - the measured silences between the Børresen and the Glass.
 
Three Danish late-romantics treading the path through salon shallows and romantic excess. Lovingly performed and recorded.
 
Rob Barnett

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