Rondeau in D minor on the Norwegian Folksong 'Stusle Sundagskvelden'
Piano Sonata no.3 in A, op.11 [15:00]
Piano Sonata no.1 in D minor, op.3 [14:30]
Variations in the Form of a Fantasy in G, op.9 [12:19]
Romance in E flat, op.14 [5:48]
Fantasie in C minor, op.20 [8:23]
Rondoletto no.1 in D minor [1:47]
Torleif Torgersen (piano)
rec. Vaksdal Church, Nordhorland, Norway, 25-27 February 2010. DDD
SIMAX PSC 1305 [61:59]
A dictionary of neglected composers would make a very thick
tome indeed, and Carl Arnold's prominent position in
it would head barely a few paragraphs of biography. Certainly
there is no entry for him in any of the music reference works
of the Oxford University Press; even Wikipedia struggles to
stretch to a couple of paragraphs in Norwegian and German, the
languages of Arnold's adoptive and native countries respectively.
In 1870 few would have predicted such historical ignominy -
by then, as the booklet notes by Arnold's biographer
Harald Herresthal put it, "Carl Arnold was regarded as
the 'grand old man' and founder of Norwegian music."
He first fell victim to changing musical trends - and political
developments - in Germany, and in 1848 he moved, taking his
family with him, to Norway, where he remained for the rest of
his life, building a successful career as pianist and organist
and playing a major role in the development of musical life
in Norway, before his elegant, Classically-indebted, light-Romantic
music finally went out of fashion to an emergent nationalist
The piano music played here by Norwegian pianist Torleif Torgersen
belongs to Arnold's early life in Germany, where he was
clearly influenced by Mozart and Beethoven. Given his relative
youth, it would be remiss to judge Arnold on these works alone,
but the evidence points nevertheless to a promising imagination.
Passages from the two attractive Piano Sonatas often seem to
paraphrase Chopin, but in spirit, and certainly in their wistful
tunefulness, they are more akin to Schubert, with whose own
Sonatas they are contemporaneous. The Fantasie op.20 is a fast-paced,
memorable work, reminiscent at times of Beethoven, whom Arnold
admired enormously. Another major work is the virtuosic set
of Fantasy Variations in G, which turn out to be based on the
theme 'Marlborough s'en va-t-en guerre',
otherwise known as 'For he's a jolly good fellow',
and first popularised by Beethoven in his Wellington's
Victory op.91, which Arnold was probably familiar with.
Torleif Torgersen's fortepiano is a robust 1830 model,
and therefore reasonably similar in sound to a modern pianoforte,
with a bit of 'edge' and just an occasional twanginess.
It is well over a decade now since Torgersen's recordings
for Simax of the piano music of other neglected 20th century
Norwegian composers Fartein Valen, Lasse Thoresen and Klaus
Egge (1105 and 1131 respectively), but there is absolutely no
sign of rustiness in this very competent, expressive and persuasive
reading of Arnold.
Sound quality is good. Ideally, recording equipment might have
been a bit nearer the piano innards and further from Torgersen,
whose breathing is sometimes audible. The trilingual booklet
is informative and well written, although the English version
does have a slight foreign accent. It can be previewed/downloaded
for free here.
One minor quibble is the lack of composition dates, though it
may be that there is no precise information on these.
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