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Danish Violin Concertos - Vol. 4
CD 1 (mono)
Niels W. GADE (1817 – 1890) Violin Concerto in D minor, op.56 (1880) [26:10]
Carl NIELSEN (1865 – 1931) Violin Concerto, op.33 (1911) [34:21]
CD 2 (stereo)
Otto MALLING (1848 – 1915) Fantasia in F, op.20 (c1885) [13:35]
Axel GADE (1860 – 1921) Violin Concerto No.1 in D (1889) [23:41]
Knudaage RIISAGER (1897 – 1974) Violin Concerto in A minor, op.54 (1950/1951) [23:29]
Kai Laursen (violin)
South Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Ole Schmidt (Niels Gade); South Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Mariss Jansons (Nielsen); Aarhus Symphony Orchestra/Jorma Panula (Malling); Aarhus Symphony Orchestra/Aksel Wellejus (Axel Gade and Riisager)
rec. 3 February 1966 (live) (Niels Gade) and 24 January 1978 (live) (Nielsen), Sønderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa; 20 February 1975 (Malling), 13 March 1978 (Axel Gade) and May 1973 (Riisager). Studio recordings. ADD
DANACORD DACOCD 467/468 [60:41 + 61:03]

Experience Classicsonline
This is the fourth part, of five, of a survey of 26 Danish violin concertos played by Kai Laursen (originally issued in a single Danacord box). And what a collection it is! With works ranging from Claus Schall (1757 – 1835) to Vagn Holmboe (1909 – 1996) and his pupil Leif Thybo (1922 – 2001) it must be the most comprehensive survey of not only this genre, but this country’s Violin Concerto output ever issued. Each set has some gems in it and here we start with Niels Gade, now quite a well known name, but not as a composer of concertos. He only wrote this and a Capriccio, but what a lovely piece this is! It occasionally reminds one of the delightful A minor Concerto by Karl Goldmark, but that is no bad thing for the Goldmark is a super work. Gade’s isn’t overly virtuosic, it wants to exploit melody at every turn, and it doesn’t outstay its welcome. From the applause of the audience it is (was?) an obviously loved piece, and quite why we don’t hear it is beyond me. Laursen receives solid, if not particularly inspired, support from the South Jutland Symphony Orchestra under Ole Schmidt.

Nielsen’s Concerto is the only well known work here, but what a piece it is. Although we seem to hear it in concert from time to time, it hasn’t really caught on as a vehicle for the virtuoso. Only 15 other violinists have recordings currently available which is poor considering Nielsen’s standing as one of the world’s leading symphonists. Perhaps it’s the fact that it plays for slightly more than half an hour which goes against it. Or perhaps the shape of the work – two large slow movements leading into two fast ones – is seen as a failing. This is a real concerto, full of fireworks, good tunes, brilliant cadenzas and a surprising end which is supposed to dispel any thoughts of display! Laursen plays with great authority, he seems happier here than in the Gade, but then he has more to do. Mariss Jansons proves himself to be a superb concerto partner and is fully in accord with Nielsen’s style. This live performance is electrifying and is worth the cost of the set alone.

Otto Malling was a pupil of Niels Gade and an organist in Copenhagen, his home town. I have only ever heard organ music by Malling and this is my first encounter with anything
of his on a larger scale. The Fantasia starts in a very serious way but this is soon gone in favour of dance–like music, and it is a delightful piece of lightish confection which deserves to be heard, but Malling spoils the broth by having a serious ending. Laursen and Panula hit exactly the right tone for their performance.

Axel Gade was the son of Niels and his work is a slight step forwards from that of his father but it’s still rather square and earthbound, and it doesn’t have the same ease of lyricism of the earlier work. Laursen puts up a very persuasive case for the work but it cannot be claimed to be a work of any importance, and it is too long, even at 23 minutes, for its sparse material. In the notes it is stated that the studio recordings of Danish violin concertos which Kai Laursen undertook were often done on the red light with no chance of retakes or patching sessions, but this cannot be the reason for my dissatisfaction with this music.

Written forty years after the Nielsen Concerto, the musical language of Riisager’s Concerto is a step forwards, and with its nods in the direction of France, it is quite a refreshing change from what we’ve already heard. There is obviously an original voice at work here and the first movement is full of atmosphere, a tranquil piece with the occasional snarl from the brass. This is impressive stuff.

Apart from the Axel Gade these are well worthwhile concertos and one wonders why one hasn’t heard them before, the Nielsen apart. The performances are authoritative and the accompaniments are, in general, first rate. The sound, despite the Nielsen coming from a private collection (does this mean a home taping?), is very good indeed, crisp and clear and bright. I shall investigate the other four volumes in this series for there is much to discover and enjoy.

Bob Briggs

26 Danish Violin Concertos – The Kai Laursen series on Danacord

Volume 1 DACOCD 461-462
Claus Schall (1757-1835) Concerto No. 4 for violin and orchestra in D major (1790)
Niels W. Gade (1817-1890) Capriccio for violin and orchestra in A minor (1878)
Launy Grøndahl (1886-1960) Concerto for violin and orchestra in D major, op. 6 (1917)
Johannes Frederick Frøhlich (1806-1860) Concertino for violin and orchestra in D major, op. 14 (1826)
Emil Hartmann (1836-1898) Concerto for violin and orchestra in G minor, op. 19 (before 1880)
Henning Wellejus (1919-2002) Concerto for violin and orchestra in A minor (1948, revised 1968)

Volume 2 DACOCD 463-464
Johan Svendsen (1840-1911) Concerto for violin and orchestra in A major, op. 6
Ludvig Holm (1858-1928) Concerto for violin and orchestra in G major (1916)
Axel Gade (1860-1921) Concerto No. 2 for violin and orchestra in F major, op 10 (1899)
Peder Gram (1881-1956) Concerto for violin and orchestra in D major, op 20 (1919)
Rued Langgaard (1893-1952) Concerto in one movement for violin and orchestra (1943)

Volume 3 DACOCD 465-466
August Enna (1859-1939) Concerto for violin and orchestra in D major (1897)
Hakon Børresen (1876-1954) Concerto for violin and orchestra in G major, op 11 (1904)
P. E. Lange-Müller (1850-1926) Concerto for violin and orchestra in C major, op 69 (1904)
Siegfried Salomon (1885-1962) Concerto for violin and orchestra in G minor, op 26 ( 1916)
Gustav Helsted (1857-1924) Concerto for violin and orchestra in B minor, op 27 (1909)

Volume 4 DACOCD 467-468
Niels W. Gade (1817-1890) Concerto for violin and orchestra in D minor, op 56 (1880)
Carl Nielsen (1860-1931) Concerto for violin and orchestra, op 33 (1911)
Otto Malling (1848-1915) Fantasia for violin and orchestra in F major, op 20 (c. 1885)
Axel Gade (1860-1921) Concerto No. 1 for violin and orchestra in D major (1889)
Knudaage Riisager (1897-1974) Concerto for violin and orchestra in A minor, op 54 (1950-51)

Volume 5 DACOCD 469-470
Eyvin Andersen (1914-1968) Concerto for violin and orchestra (1964)
Niels Viggo Bentzon (1919-2000) Concerto No. 2 for violin and orchestra (1961)
Jens Laursen Emborg (1876-1957) Concerto for violin and orchestra, op 48 (1926)
Leif Thybo (1922-2001) Concerto for violin and orchestra (1969)
Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996) Concerto 9 per violino, viola e orchestra, op 39 (1968)

 


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