Carl ARNOLD (1794-1873)
Rondeau in D minor on the Norwegian Folksong 'Stusle Sundagskvelden' [4:16]
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 school.
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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Seems to paraphrase Chopin in spirit and in wistful tunefulness are akin to Schubert.