Nilla Pierrou & en Stradivarius
CD 1
Jenö HUBAY (1858-1937)
Violin Concerto No.3 in G minor Op.99 (1906-07) [29:34]
Interview with Seth Karlsson recorded in 1985 [3:41]
Lille Bror SÖDERLUNDH (1912-1957)
Violin Concerto – II. Intermedio a parte (1954) [2:45]
Willem KERSTERS (1929-1998)
Violin Concerto Op.86 (1989) [38:20]
CD 2
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Violin Sonata in F major [18:55]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Violin Sonata No.3 in C minor Op.45 (1886-87) [22:35]
Anton WEBERN (1883-1945)
Four Pieces Op.7 (1910-22) [5:30]
Leoš JANÁCEK (1854-1928)
Violin Sonata (1914-15 rev 1921) [19:10]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Violin Sonata No.1 BB84 – ii Adagio (1921) [11:24]
CD 3
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Rhapsody No.1 for violin and piano BB94a (1928) [10:09]
Eugčne YSAźE (1858-1931)
Reve d’enfant Op.14 [4:52]
Victor LEGLEY (1915-1994)
Duo for violin and cello Op.101 [9:40]
Ernest BLOCH (1880-19 59)
Baal Shem – Nigun (1923) [6:57]
Tor AULIN (1866-1914)
Barcarole Op.16 (1906) [5:00]
Vaggsĺng (1899) [3:43]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Sonatina for violin and piano BB102 ed. André Gertler (1915 rev 1924) [4:46]
Zoltán KODÁLY (1882-1967)
Adagio for violin and piano (1905) [7:10]
Duo for violin and cello Op.7 (1914) [25:17]
Nilla Pierrou (violin) with
Orchestre Symphonique de la R.T.B/René Defossez (Hubay)
Het Filh. Orchestre van de VRT/Silveer van den Broeck (Kersters)
Roel Dieltiens (cello) – Legley and Kodály Duo
Eugčne De Canck (piano) except Lucia Negro (piano) – Ysa˙e: Lilian Carlson-Nyqvist (piano) – Bloch and Bartók Sonatina: Eva Pierrou (piano) – Aulin Barcarole
rec. Stockholm, Brussels, Maastricht. 1974-93
OAK GROVE CD 2027 [3 CDs: 74:50 + 78:28 + 78:29]

Nilla Pierrou is a Swedish violinist who was born in the village of Hofors, and made her debut with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic at the age of 14. She studied with the eminent Otto Kyndel (who made some recordings on 78), won awards, continuing her studies in Lucerne where she made her first LP, which was of Peterson-Berger’s Violin Concerto (Phono-Suecia PSCD95). She was 20. Flattering offers followed, including one to assume the leader’s position with the Swedish Radio Symphony but, worried over her imperfect bowing arm, she preferred to pursue further studies with the Hungarian fiddler André Gertler in Brussels. He seems to have remodelled both her technique and her musical outlook in general. Some years later she even joined the quartet he set up, the last performing venture of his distinguished career. She later moved to the United States, playing chamber music and teaching before, in 2003 or 2005 (the notes are inconsistent on the point), she returned to her native Sweden. A broken wrist has now ended her performing career but she continues to teach.
This brief summary can only scratch the surface of a musician’s life, but fortunately there is documentary evidence in the form of three CDs, recorded over two decades from a variety of sources, and we can listen to her playing in repertoire both familiar and, fortunately, unfamiliar. She has sought out new works and that’s just one of the consistent pleasures to be found in this box.
The first disc starts with Hubay’s Third Violin Concerto, a recording of which some may have come across fairly recently on Hyperion. Like many things, this is a live performance and it certainly does justice to the work – the harp is forward and well caught, the aerial lightness of the Scherzo is realised and so too the beautiful legato of the slow movement. Nor should one overlook Pierrou’s playing of the tricky fourth movement cadenza. We have a segment from Lille Bror Söderlundh’s Concerto – and his friend, Seth Karlsson, can be heard in a 1985 radio interview (in Swedish) explaining the circumstances of this addition to the concerto, a brief Interlude – added because the concerto was too short. We hear the Interlude only, with piano accompaniment. It’s quietly contemplative. Of more significance is Willem Kersters’s Concerto, which is dedicated to Pierrou. Written in 1989, it’s a late work but very approachable, with some lovely high-lying solo writing over a static bass line, a musing and very long cadenza; rarefied, expressive, hard-won, and a fine discovery.
The second disc moves away from concerto repertoire to reveal her strengths as a sonata player. We have an engaging Haydn sonata, and Grieg’s Third Sonata – a little too metrical at points, and occasionally shaky in the finale but with well varied vibrato usage. Webern’s Four Pieces are subtly done and her take on Janácek’s sonata is interesting; a very romantically phrased Ballada, for one thing, and a very non-Moravian sounding Allegretto. She has a much stronger grip, idiomatically, on Bartók as one might have predicted given her studies with Gertler, one of the composer’s greatest interpreters. We hear the Adagio from the First Sonata.
The final disc is, again, a chamber one. Bartók is here once more, in the shape of an excellent First Rhapsody, and the Bartók-Gertler Sonatina, which is played with just the right sense of imagination and rhythm. Her Kodály Adagio, a Grumiaux favourite, is nobly played, whilst the great Duo for violin and cello sees her teamed with Roel Dieltiens for an intense and satisfying performance. The two also perform Victor Legley’s Duo. Legley (1915-94) was a Belgian composer - a string player and orchestral musician before devoting his time to writing music full-time. His Duo is rather neo-classical, very communicative and with a flighty fugal exchange in the finale that brings a smile to one’s face. She doesn’t over-bow in Bloch’s Nigun and she is a natural for the two Tor Aulin pieces.
Sound quality naturally varies from location to location, and broadcast to broadcast. It’s never less than perfectly acceptable and often a great deal more. There is a 32 page Swedish/English booklet with plenty of information and photographs, and all the accompanists – I apologise for skirting round them in this review – are given potted biographies. I enjoyed this box, and its contents reflect well on an honest and broadminded musician.
Jonathan Woolf

I enjoyed this box, and its contents reflect well on an honest and broadminded musician.

See also review by Göran Forsling (March 2012 Recording of the Month)