Conversations for Violin and Piano
Niels ROSING-SCHOW (b.1954)
E Rigidis for violin and piano (1980-81) [13:37]
Per NØRGÅRD (b.1932)
Fragment No.5 for violin and piano (1961) [2:40]
Diptychon op.11 for violin and piano (1954) [9:52]
Poul RUDERS (b.1949)
Three Tiny Pieces for Great Friends (1998) [6:31]
Bel Canto - for violin solo (2004) [7:27]
Anders NORDENTOFT (b.1957)
Two movements for violin and piano (1978) [7:18]
Herman D. KOPPEL (1908-1998)
Ternio for violin and piano Op.53a (1951) [12:35]
Elisabeth Zeuthen Schneider (violin); Ulrich Stærk (piano)
rec. January-April 2009, Royal Danish Academy of Music
DACAPO 8.226519 [60:00]

We plunge straight into brusqueness. Niels Rosing-Schow’s E Rigidis opens thus, before picking out some oscillatory figures and ruminating over them. There are brighter things in the work’s central panel, comfortingly folkloric in places, and there are expressionistic glimmers in the finale, as well as terse ambivalence - though the work as a whole ends quietly. Nørgård contributes two works. His 1961 Fragment V features his famous ‘infinity row’. Despite the lure of this forbidding paraphernalia this brief piece offers real rewards not least in its melancholic meandering – if a work can be said to meander that is not quite three minutes in length. Diptychon is a ‘two panel altar piece’ in the words of the notes. The first is contemplative, concentrated and explicitly contrasted with the second movement which is rhythmically precise and embodies moments of almost conventional-sounding virtuosic passagework.

There are two works as well from Poul Ruders. Three Tiny Pieces for Great Friends was written in 1998. There are plenty of good things here; in the first, the violin’s angular, sinuous romance plays off against the piano’s tense fills. Passionate piano chording animates the second, whereas now the violin is serenely aloof. The final piece is quietly austere. Bel Canto was composed for the Carl Nielsen Violin Competition in Odense in 2004. It makes for a fine test, especially of players’ sculpting of long lyrical phrases.

Andres Nordentoft’s Two Movements was written in 1978. There is an obsessive sense of repetition and return in this one; an urgent sense of drama and a biting incision – not especially likeable but well crafted. It’s a relief, really, after this, to turn to Koppel. Ternio was composed in 1951 and whilst its more traditional models are obvious, it displays one thing that’s in quite short supply in the other works in the programme: wit. Koppel doesn’t use rhythmic impetus as a contrastive device or a cosh; it’s embedded into the fabric of the writing. His slow movement is sweetly austere and his finale is puckish, musing on the earlier slow material, and richly lyric. It’s only twelve minutes in length but if feels solid.

The performances, excellently recorded, are outstandingly good, and evince powerful commitment for the repertoire. This I find somewhat uneven – but never less than intriguing.

Jonathan Woolf