This is very largely a reissue of Simax SC1261 [SACD] (see review) with one exception. There we had Grieg’s orchestrated At the Matching Game from Sigurd Jorsalfar Op.56 whereas here we have the violin and piano version, called Gavotte and also a Minuet which derives from Grieg’s First Violin Sonata - the notes, rather oddly, talk of it coming from the Second Sonata. Ole Bull played these pieces in concert. What follows then is a reprise of my previous review.
Bull, Norwegian Romantic hero and possibly the model for Ibsen’s ‘Peer Gynt’, occupied a unique place in his nation’s affections. He was the fulcrum of the country’s mid-nineteenth century musico-literary aspirations and the one towering figure of European stature. It’s not surprising that his own compositions sought to reflect his lineage and that of the Norwegian muse and that his wide travelling gave him the opportunity to serenade concert halls across Europe and America with the romantic vistas embodied in them.
This disc seeks to explore these features of his art. Arve Tellefsen, a Bull redivivus, takes on the violinistic honours with his accustomed allure and stature. Tellefsen has never shied away from the lighter environs of the repertoire as several discs attest and one thing he doesn’t lack is charm. It’s an under-appreciated facet and imbues Bull’s Nocturne with tremendous warmth and a delicate refinement. It’s true that a number of Bull’s compositions cleave strongly to the Germanic mainstream and lack real individuality however superbly they may be written for the violin. But A Mountain Vision brings with it the sense of vista and space, Beethoven and birdcall, lush orchestral underpin and verdancy that proves captivating. Bull was fond of integrating the fiddle music he knew so well into the fabric of some of his scores – here appositely – alongside some entertaining double-stopping demands to ensure the executant is on his technical toes.
It’s clear from Adagio Religioso - A Mother’s Prayer written when he was twenty-four, that Bull must have had exceptional intonation as it takes the player high up the fingerboard. This is a very expressive, romantic opus with plenty of sweet lyricism. What a shame that Bull died before he had the chance to record. One of his compositional models was Paganini, in whose shadow he walked as a virtuoso. The Polacca Guerriera has been orchestrated by Harald Heide and arranged for violin by Arve Tellefsen but its ceremonial brass and ripe, flashy Paganinian rhetoric attests to the influence. Tellefsen plays it as if he believes every note – as he must.
It’s valuable to enjoy the slow movement – warmly limpid – of the E minor Violin Concerto but rather more intriguing is the Cantabile doloroso e Rondo giocoso which was written four years earlier, in 1837. This sounds programmatic to me, bathed in revolutionary wine, possibly pitting an individual against a mass, from the sound of the distribution of the thing; or maybe an operatic scena such as Paganini often played. Bull swings between the grandiose, such as this, and the modestly lyric, such as La Mélancolie “I ensomme stunde.” Something like the Scotch Fantasy is a rather by-rote piece of Euro-Folk and that’s a component of his writing as well.
There are musical reminiscences here - the Andante maestoso from Agiaco Cubano for example - and musical theatre-pieces, as well as parts of bigger works - the slow movement of the Concerto for instance - and morceaux. Bull’s muse was broadly contemplative and insinuating, steeped in lyricism and central European romanticism, but also dashingly Paganinian when he needed to be. All sides of the Bull personality are covered here.
Tellefsen plays beautifully and his accompanists are fully
supportive as is the warmly inviting recorded sound. The notes
are especially attractive, full of detail and some excellent