Christian SINDING (1856 - 1941)
Music for Violin and Piano - 1
Cantus doloris, Op. 78 [9:42]
Elegy in B flat major, Op. 106, No. 1 [2:54]
Romance in D major, Op. 79 No. 2 [6:01]
Albumblatt, Op. 81, No. 2 [3:16]
Alte Weise, Op. 89, No. 2 [3:14]
Ständchen, Op. 89 No. 1 [2:25]
Suite im Alten Stil, Op. 10 [13:06]: I. Presto [2:01] II. Adagio [5:58] III. Tempo giusto [5:07]
Andante religioso, Op. 106 No. 3 [4:23]
Waltz in G major, Op. 59 No. 3 (arr. W. Burmester, ed. Kraggerud and Hadland, 1st Version) [1:44]
Waltz in E minor, Op. 59 No. 4 (arr. for solo piano, E. Alnaes) [2:04]
Waltz in G major, Op. 59 No. 3 (arr. W. Burmester, ed. Kraggerud and Hadland, 2nd Version) [1:45]
Air, Op. 81 No. 1 [4:05]
Berceuse, Op. 106 No. 2 [2:40]
Henning Kraggerud (violin); Christian Ihle Hadland (piano)
rec. Old Fredrikstad Church, Fredrikstad, Norway, 20-25 November 2006
NAXOS 8.572254 [57:18]

Christian Sinding is today known to most music-lovers outside Norway for his piano piece Frühlingsrauschen (Rustle of Spring) and nothing else. During his lifetime he was highly regarded also abroad. His oeuvre encompasses, among other things: four symphonies, three violin concertos, a piano concerto, a fair amount of chamber music, a large number of piano music, more than 250 solo songs, choral music and an opera. Some years ago Henning Kraggerud recorded Sinding’s first violin concerto, in harness with Sibelius concerto (Naxos 8.557266) and there is also a very fine disc with songs (Naxos 8.553905N), sung by Bodil Arnesen.

Sinding studied in Germany and lived there for much of his life. In the 1920s he taught composition for a couple of years at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester in USA but the last years of his life he lived in Norway where he also died. Just a few weeks before he died he was entered into the Norwegian Nazi party, which led to his music being largely boycotted for many years after the war. It seems, though, that the circumstances surrounding his membership were rather suspect. Like Knut Hamsun, the Nobel Prize winner, who also showed Nazi sympathies, Sinding was in a state of senile dementia. Earlier he had fought for the rights of Jewish musicians and was a close friend of Nordahl Grieg, the Norwegian war hero.

Sinding’s instrument was the violin and the first impression of this disc is of truly idiomatic writing for the instrument. His musical style is full-bloodedly romantic, more Central European than typically Nordic. There is nothing of the folkloristic tone that is so characteristic of his compatriot Grieg. Knowing many of his songs, which are melodically attractive and eminently singable, it comes as no surprise to find the same kind of vocal quality here. The violin is frequently asked to sing and several of the titles refer to singing: Cantus doloris, Alte Weise, Ständchen, Air. All this music is very attractive, though hardly barnstorming or particularly original. The only well known composition is the Suite im alten Stil, Op. 10, which has been in the repertoire of all the great violinists from Kreisler and Heifetz to Ruggiero Ricci and Itzhak Perlman. There are numerous recordings, often in the version for violin and orchestra in Sinding’s own arrangement. Henning Kraggerud recorded that version more than ten years ago (Naxos 8.554497) and I heard him playing it at about the time, when he was little more than twenty. He showed a dazzling technique and remarkable beauty of tone. Today he is one of the foremost violinists worldwide and the suite in its original version is just as dazzling.

His silken tone also seems ideally suited to the rest of the music and his noble playing may make it sound even better than it is. He is also superbly partnered by Christian Ihle Hadland, whom I praised not long ago in connection with a song recital by Isa Katharina Gericke (review). He has moreover written the fine liner-notes.

The Suite im alten Stil is the definite masterpiece here, and the disc is worth the price for those thirteen minutes alone. But lovers of violin music will almost certainly be enthralled by many of the other pieces as well - and they will probably never hear this music better played. I am eagerly looking forward to volume 2, which is in the pipeline.

Göran Forsling