Christian SINDING (1856-1941)
CD 1
Violin Concerto No. 3 in A minor, Op. 119 (1916/17) [21:01]
Legend for Violin and Orchestra in B felt major, Op. 46 (1900) [6:59]
Romance in D major for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 100 (1910) [9:02]
Violin Concerto No. 1 in A major, Op. 45 (1897/98) [21:54]
CD 2
Violin Concerto No. 2 in D major, Op. 60 (1901) [33:44]
Suite in A minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 10 (1906) [12:49]
Abendstimmung for Violin and Orchestra in G major, Op. 120a (1915) [6:28]
Andrej Bielow (violin)
NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover/Frank Beermann
rec. December 2004, NDR Landesfunkhaus Niedersachsen, Großer Sendesaal (Concerto No.2, Legend, Romance); December 2004, Kleiner Sendesaal (Concerto No.1, Suite, Abendstimmung); March 2005, Kleiner Sendesaal (Concerto No.2).
CPO 777 114-2 [59:01 + 53:07]

The music of Christian Sinding was highly thought of in its day and the composer certainly had his champions. Before the Second World War it was regularly played in Europe and America and was extremely popular in Germany. In 1907 his Second Symphony was premičred in Berlin by Felix Weingartner and the Third Symphony in 1920 in Leipzig under Arthur Nikisch.

Although Sinding lived in Germany for most of his life he was Norwegian by birth and had the luxury of receiving generous stipends from the Norwegian government for many years. Since his death in 1941 - and probably before that - he has been known for a single piece for solo piano the popular Frühlingsrauschen (Rustle of Spring). In the last decade there has been renewed interest with a number of recordings especially from Hyperion, Simax, Finlandia, Naxos and CPO.

Soloist Ukraine-born Andrej Bielow has a strong connection with Hanover studying in the city from the age of fifteen at the University of Music and Drama. He plays a Guarneri ‘Joseph Filius’ violin (c. 1730/35) loaned by the Deutsche Stiftung Musikleben.

The NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover is no stranger to Sinding’s music. They have already recorded Sinding’s four symphonies on two separate discs with Symphonies No.1 and No.2 conducted by Thomas Dausgaard and Symphonies No.3 and No.4 under David Porcelijn.

The set opens with the Violin Concerto No. 3 in A minor composed in 1916/17. Shortly after completion it received its premičre at Bergen played by Leif Halvorsen. At times I was reminded melodically of Brahms especially in the extended opening movement. Bielow plays virtually continuously throughout in music that varies between moody and windswept. A yearningly emotional Andante has shades of the Sibelius and Nielsen concertos composed between six and ten years earlier. Finally in the Allegro non troppo the mood becomes more uplifting with the orchestra gaining greater prominence although Sinding’s writing feels rather lightweight.

The Legend for Violin and Orchestra from 1900 was given its first performance in Stockholm two years later. Initially the orchestral writing felt evocative of Elgar. Coming across as rather strait-laced the Legend takes itself rather seriously yet contains a degree of warmth communicated through Bielow’s long melodic line. I’m not sure if Sinding felt any special affinity or significance for his tender and warm Romance as he allocated the opus 100 to the 1910 score. Bielow’s solo line and orchestration reminded me of the Delius concerto; a work that was composed some six years later.

Sinding’s first Violin Concerto in A major was written in 1897/98. It seems it was completed in London and premičred later the same year in Oslo. Summery melodies in the manner of Dvorák inhabit the opening movement with bustling extended lines from the soloist. Low strings open the Andante suggesting a darkly-hued temperament set amid a strong sense of melancholy. In the central passage the music develops a weightier funereal tread which must surely be a commemoration of a significant loss. Buoyancy and exhilaration pervade the Finale, Allegro giocoso. Noticeably Sinding’s writing varies widely in pace and emotional content. At times Bielow is required to play at breakneck speed which certainly blows away any cobwebs.

CD two opens with the Violin Concerto No. 2 in D major first performed in 1901 in Berlin. The score’s dedicatee was the soloist Henri Marteau. It was a great success at the premičre. This work is predominantly wistful in nature. Bielow is required to play virtually continually throughout. At times I was reminded of Dvorák’s violin concerto. A lengthy orchestral introduction precedes a severe and dark-hued Andante. Serving as a stark contrast the Finale, Allegro is a light-hearted romp through verdant Norwegian pastures.

Originally composed in 1886/87 as a suite for violin and piano Sinding’s Suite in A Minor was not published until nearly twenty years later in this arrangement for small orchestra. The opening Presto is breezy and exhilarating in the manner of Dvorák followed by a warm-hearted Adagio of much tenderness. Marked Tempo giusto the final movement just glows with happiness. The Abendstimmung is a product of the Great War years. As the German title suggests the writing establishes a picturesque evening mood. This short single movement score is a sultry nocturne suffused with warm and summery temperament.

Bielow never over-indulges himself, taking a sensible middle-ground approach. He comes across as a sensitive and responsive violinist with a splendid technique who is equally at home with virtuosic requirements as he is in rapt emotion. Under the baton of Frank Beermann the NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover come across as committed partners. They do not disappoint.

On this CPO release it took me a while to get used to the sound which is best heard with the volume turned up. The balance and overall impression is agreeable but I’m not sure how well Bielow’s Guarneri is served by the recording. The instrument’s timbre is rather thin and bright in repertoire that would surely have benefited from more warmth and sweetness. The presentation is enhanced by a detailed essay. The front cover uses a stunning image by Zemo Diemer titled ‘Fjord with a steamship’.

For those approaching Sinding’s music for the first time what should they expect? It is hard to hear a very individual voice in Sinding’s late-Romantic music. Seemingly highly derivative in nature, I felt the music mainly echoed the sound-worlds of Brahms and Dvorák. Sinding’s design seems to favour a thickly textured opening movement Allegro with a rather dark and sombre slow central movement. Only in the brisk final movements do things lighten up. There the music is usually cheerful and of a fresher, breezy quality.

Sinding’s music is appealing and has its share of impressive moments although in truth it contains very little in the way of memorable melodies.

Michael Cookson

Appealing and with its share of impressive moments although there’s very little in the way of memorable melodies.