Sonatas and Scenes
: Danish Works for Solo Cello
Per NØRGÅRD (b.1932)
Solo Intimo, op.8 (Sonata no.2 (part I) for solo cello) (1953) [9:54]
Solo in Scéna (Sonata no.2 (part II) for solo cello) (1980) [7:27]
Sonata Breve 'What! is the Word' (Sonata no.3 for solo cello) (1998) [7:04]
Karsten FUNDAL (b.1966)
Figure and Ground Study I (1992) [11:13]
Anders BRØDSGAARD (b.1955)
Prelude (1994) [5:42]
Tage NIELSEN (1929-2003)
Fantasy Piece (1997) [6:54]
Kim HELWEG (b.1956)
Movements (2009) [12:10]
John Ehde (cello)
rec. Hendriksholm Church, Copenhagen, 2009-10. DDD
CDKLASSISK CDK 1061 [61:09] 

This is an outstanding disc on every level, from Swedish cellist John Ehde's breathtaking virtuosity to the phenomenally inventive music of the five featured Danish composers, from the superb quality of the recording to the high-quality booklet.
John Ehde's recital follows one released on ArcoDiva earlier this year by his compatriot and contemporary Mikael Ericsson, and Ehde possesses a similar brilliance of technique, sureness of tone and depth of expression. In many ways, Ericsson's was a cognate programme (see review), but the works played by Ehde are darker and more openly virtuosic.
There are no weak pieces here by a long chalk. All are by composers in their prime and all but one from the last twenty years. Felicitously, there is little sign of Nørgård's serial "infinity" music, the atonal modernism Tage Nielsen flirted with, nor, most thankfully, Kim Helweg's ill-conceived experiments in jazz and rock. On the contrary, Ehde's programme sees all of these composers at the peak of their approachable originality.
Per Nørgård's two Sonatas are 20th century classics of their kind, treasuries of outstanding musical ideas. He wrote Solo Intimo as a youngster; it can be performed either as a standalone piece or played with the much later Solo in Scéna - arcane acute accent and all - as his Second Sonata. Karsten Fundal's Figure and Ground Study I is a highly memorable work that makes incredible demands on the cellist and his instrument. Though clearly modernist in style, there is little doubt Johann Sebastian Bach would not only recognise this as music but marvel at the pyrotechnics. Speaking of Bach, the mesmerising and extremely difficult Prelude by Anders Brødsgaard threatens repeatedly to turn into Bach's First Cello Suite, before simply petering out. This, Tage Nielsen's reflective, moody Fantasy Piece and Kim Helweg's endlessly imaginative Movements - included in the panoply of styles and techniques is a neo-Renaissance canon where the player is called on at three junctures to thrash the air sword-like with the bow - were all written for and/or premiered by Ehde.
The sound quality on this disc is excellent, without a trace of background traffic, and the splendid acoustic of the Hendriksholm Church providing metered, atmospheric resonance. The CD case is made of card; the English-Danish booklet is housed in a slot which, aside from the slightly ungenerous timing, is the only weak point of this entire product.  

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Brilliance of technique, sureness of tone and depth of expression.