RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Svend Erik TARP (1908-1994)
Theme (Carillon) with variations op. 43 (1945) [10:30]
Suite (1927/1929) [10:02]
Sonatina op. 48, No. 1 (1947) [6:09]
Sonatina op. 48, No. 2 (Fantasietta) (1947) [4:41]
Sonatina op. 48, No. 3 (1947) [8:20]
Three Improvisations op. 21 (1934) [6:11]
Sonata op. 60 (1956) [12:39]
Tonya Lemoh (piano)
rec. Concert Hall, Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, Esbjerg, Denmark, 26-30 June 2010. DDD
DACAPO 8.226053 [58:32]
Svend Erik Tarp is one of Denmark's foremost 20th century composers still awaiting proper discovery by the music-loving public. The works on this disc are from Tarp's earlier years, and none is quintessentially representative of his fairly large corpus - his mainly post-war orchestral works are much more significant. The CD blurb on the back cover claims that Tarp was "at the height of his career" in 1956, the year he wrote the Sonata, but there were still many key works to come, even thirty years later. Three of his major compositions, in fact - the Te Deum, Piano Concerto in C and the Seventh Symphony - appeared on the last disc published by Dacapo, or indeed any other label, dedicated to Tarp's music - way back in 1992 (DCCD 9005).
Major works or not, these are all indisputably appealing pieces on a smaller scale, beautifully played by Australian pianist Tonya Lemoh, now based in Denmark, in her first recording for Dacapo. Tarp's music is instantly likeable without being superficial, like that of his fellow Scandinavian Grieg, whose imaginative, melodic piano miniatures are often called to mind, or to a lesser degree like that of Ravel or de Falla, whom Tarp also occasionally resembles, as in the Three Improvisations. Even the slow movement of the later, condensed Sonata is still quite Griegian in its sonorities, although this otherwise lively work is more reminiscent in general of Granados.
Sound quality is very good, although the piano action is sometimes a little on the noisy side. The CD case is made of card and the booklet is housed in a slot that will, alas, not last for ever. The booklet itself, however, is excellent: informative, well-written and well-presented: everything pretty much as it should be. The only slight quibble is that the notes sometimes tend towards overstatement - to describe the final section of the wistful Theme with Variations as having "fierce intensity and immense dissonance" is to give the wrong impression: there is nothing here that Chopin could not have come up with, and perhaps did in a parallel universe. It is also surprising to read that, for all its delights, the Theme with Variations "was perhaps his most important work for the piano" - even discounting the Piano Concerto and comparing only solo works, the Three Improvisations and the Sonata are more profound.
The CD could certainly have been more generous in length, but on the whole this is a quality artefact that all but recommends itself.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
A quality artefact that all but recommends itself.
And a further review:
Svend Erik Tarp, born in Thisted, Denmark, studied music at the University of Copenhagen and from 1930 to 1932 at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. His teachers were Knud Jeppesen (music theory) and Rudolph Simonsen (piano). Later he continued his studies in Germany, Austria and Holland. He worked with KODA promoting the performance rights of Danish composers and also as musical adviser at Danish National Radio (1956-62). The radio company played its part in introducing me to Tarp’s orchestral music. It was through their broadcasts and a friend in Denmark that I had the privilege of hearing some of Tarp’s symphonies: No. 1 Sinfonia divertente (1945) (Ole Schmidt/DR Symphony Orchestra), No. 3 Quasi una Fantasia (1958) (Sonderjyllands Symphony Orchestra/Carl Von Garaguly), No. 5 (1976) (Aalborg Symphony Orchestra/ Jens Schröder), No. 6 (1977) (DR Symphony Orchestra/John Frandsen), No. 7 Galaxy 1981 (Odense BO/ Tamas Vetö) and No. 8 (1989) (DR Symphony Orchestra/Leif Segerstam).
The Theme (carillon) with Variations dates from the German occupation. The innocence of the theme is rarely lost across the six variations. Miniature glittering dissonances appear as do some more muscular ones in the final variant. There is something here of Le Tombeau de Couperin, the outdoor Moeran and the indoor Warlock.
The much earlier four movement Suite is a piece of neo-Baroque extravagance with a strong romantic aspect. Its Intermezzo defies expectations with a tenderly gentle melody touched in by Lemoh with grave beauty. It’s very much of the twentieth century; by no means a slavish antique facsimile.
The three 1945 Sonatinas are by turns glitteringly athletic (3, I and III), happily steeped in extroversion, delightfully moonlit (No. 1 II) and gravely thoughtful (3, II).
The Three Improvisations move from cut-glass splendour with some hints of Kodaly to a dignified subtle Lento in the similitude of a Dowland pavane to a motoric Allegro molto vivace with Bartókian crunches and clangour.
The Sonata op. 60 is the latest work here. Its first movement is quite rigidly patterned and neo-classical while, as ever, the Lento is a gentle and fragile effusion. Tarp has a gift for pensive moments in time. This is contrasted with a finale that has the vigour of Gershwin melded with a sunny morning demeanour.
There is some talk of Stravinsky's influence but I heard nothing taking us anywhere near close to that often desiccated neo-classicism.
All these moods are most adeptly articulated by Lemoh (see interview) who has already made a name for herself with the piano music of Joseph Marx (review; review). There's a Tarp Piano Concerto (1944) so I hope that Lemoh’s interest continues and that she will feel drawn back to this composer. The results here bode well for a project further combining Tarp with Lemoh's technical acumen and artistic sensitivity and Dacapo's staunch commitment to excavating the riches of Denmark's neglected music legacy.
I do urge you to try this most intriguing and musically valuable disc.
Do try this most intriguing and musically valuable disc.