is on display in this Nordic Showcase is not the usual
mix of Greatest Hits. Visitors will of course react with a smile
of recognition in the case of the most prominently exposed items:
Carl Nielsen’s Suite for string orchestra, must be amongst
his most beloved compositions. It is fresh, melodic but with
some odd twists that make it stand out from the mainstream string
repertoire. Then there’s Johan Svendsen’s Romance for violin
and orchestra, which at least in my youth was one of those
recurring favourites in the radio charts: sweet, hummable. Oh
yes, I know it, it is Bruch, isn’t it? Bruch and Svendsen had,
in the mind of most listeners, written only one piece each.
who feel enticed by these two titles will, I am sure, react
positively. The Intermezzo of the Nielsen Suite
is played with elegance and charm and there is glowing intensity
in the third movement. Australian Richard Tognetti doesn’t sentimentalize
the Svendsen Romance but his violin also glows with true
passion. Good orchestra, too. What orchestra is it? Nordic Chamber
Orchestra – must be some ad hoc ensemble from some inter-Nordic
workshop – but the unanimity of phrasing and the homogenous
sound tell another tale: these musicians must have been playing
together for some time. In fact they have. I don’t know how
many nationalities are represented in the orchestra but it was
formed in 1990 as Sundsvall’s Chamber Orchestra. It has specialised
very much in new music. Sundsvall is a town situated almost
in the middle of Sweden, but since it is almost 400 kilometres
north of Stockholm most people in the southern part of this
elongated country believe it’s far up north. 1998 – 2005 Christopher
Warren-Green was principal conductor, now it is Christian Lindberg,
and don’t we recognize his name? Of course, the world-famous
trombonist, but is he also a conductor? Not for so long; he
made his debut in 2000 and has appeared with many leading orchestras.
Judging from this disc, which I believe is his first recording
as a conductor, he might well rise to the stars even in this
now to the programme, those who found Nielsen and Svendsen to
their liking, will possibly wonder who Anders Wesström was.
Born in 1720 he was slightly older than Haydn and had an academic
career in Uppsala before he devoted himself to music. He studied
in German and Italy, one of his teachers was the violinist Giuseppe
Tartini. Back in Sweden he became a member of the Royal Court
Orchestra and composed several operas, admired by his contemporaries.
The overture to Armida, a three-part composition in the
normal fast-slow-fast mode, reveals a sure formal sense and
expert scoring with inventive use of wind instruments. The opening
Allegro is a real swinger and the concluding Allegro
assai is fresh and inviting.
most famous composer, Jón Leifs, has been well served by some
record companies lately, especially by BIS. He can be quirky
sometimes and there is often a dark basic tone in most of his
works. These Variazioni Pastorali carry the opus number
8 and is consequently a fairly early piece, finished in 1930
but not premiered until 1935. Interestingly he uses a theme
from Beethoven’s op. 8, the Serenade for string trio.
It is a melody that sticks – and it sounds surprisingly modern.
The theme is first presented straight and then follow ten variations,
where he becomes ever more harmonically bold. Number 3 is stormy
and Number 5 is solemn but between them there is a jolly Allegro
scherzando. Number 7 is powerful, Number 9 is gloomy and
then he returns to Beethoven’s theme but now in the Major key.
A refreshing work that should be heard often.
composer Bo Linde, who died at the age of 37, never made much
of a name during his lifetime. He was played by the orchestra
in his hometown, Gävle, but recordings were non-existent. Today
the situation is different. BIS, again, have recorded a number
of discs and on Naxos his concertos for violin and cello were
a little more than a year ago. Concerto piccolo for wind
quintet and string orchestra sounds like a kind of concerto
grosso, but it isn’t. The five wind instruments are treated
very individually with the piccolo-flute twittering high above
the others, but all the un-named players are splendid. Linde
is, as always, entertaining, good-humoured. There are three
movements, of which the first is a prelude followed by a scherzo.
The finale is also in effect a scherzo, intensely rhythmical
in partsw. The central Canto is more serious; one can
even discern cries for help.
disc ends as it began with music for strings by another Nordic
giant. Sibelius’s Impromptu is however an arrangement
– his own from 1894 – of music he wrote for piano the year before:
six impromptus Op. 5. He chose two of these, numbers 5 and 6,
and created a slow-lively-slow structure with the number 6 impromptu
as the mid-section. The slow music is very inward and exquisitely
scored and without knowing the origin one would almost certainly
believe that it was conceived from the outset for strings.
well, someone seems to mutter, maybe a visit to that showcase
could be a good idea. I do have an inclination for rarities,
so … why not? Tonhallen, the concert hall in Sundsvall, is well-known
for its good acoustics. Swedes in general know it from hundreds
of sing-along programmes on TV and a BIS recording is always
a BIS recording – so why hesitate?