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A DR Tribute to Erling Blöndal Bengtsson: The Early Danish Recordings: 1955-59
Samuel BARBER (1910-1981)
Cello Concerto in A minor Op.22 (1945) [28:47] ¹
Siegfried SALOMON (1885-1962)
Cello Concerto in D minor Op.34 (1922) [29:02] ²
Niels Viggo BENTZON (1919-2000)
Cello Concerto No.1 Op.106 (1956) ²
Erling Blöndal Bengtsson (cello)
Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra/Nikolai Malko ¹
Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra/Thomas Jensen ²
rec. November 1955, Concert Hall, Danish Radio, Copenhagen (Barber): August 1957, Tivoli Concert Hall, Copenhagen (Bentzon); June 1959, Concert Hall, Danish Radio, Copenhagen (Salomon)

Experience Classicsonline

An earlier tribute album in this series [DACOCD 724] released Erling Blöndal Bengtsson’s 1973-79 performances of Elgar’s Concerto, Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata and a pleasing raft of encores. I’ve not heard it, but if it’s as good as this latest release it’s likely to be impressive. This second volume delves much further back into Danish Radio’s archive to resurrect three concerto performances with the Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra.
The sound quality for the period 1955-59 is excellent. I don’t know how much restoration was necessary, and one simply can’t tell so good are the results. The earliest work to be taped is Barber’s Concerto where the cellist is joined by Nikolai Malko in the Scandinavian premiere of the work. Raya Garbousova premièred it in April 1946 with Koussevitzky but Zara Nelsova was the first to record it in London in 1950 with the composer conducting. That iconic performance can be heard best in the Decca boxed set devoted to the cellist. It’s interesting that Bengtsson and Malko take the opening movement at a slightly steadier tempo than Nelsova and Barber, though with no particular loss of impetus or tension. The important wind statements are very audible, and are characterfully taken. The cellist plays the expressive slow movement very well indeed, and essays a few dulcet slides, whilst in the finale he is deft, articulating at speed with clarity and purpose, and relaxing into the musing, contrasting sections with flexibility but without indulgence. The playful dynamism he generates is wholly supported by Malko.
Siegfried Salomon (1885-1962) is best known, if at all, as an operatic composer. He was earlier a cellist, studying in Leipzig and Paris and his 1922 concerto reflects late Romantic expression and frank lyric richness. It’s a work bursting with uninhibited grandeur, bold, very hummable themes, and legato warmth. Turbulence is balanced by resolution, and in the central Andante cantabile we find aria-like melody. It’s no surprise that this should be so, as the 1920s were his operatic heyday, and a few years later he was to finish Leonora Christina, the work by which he is best remembered. The light-hearted, grand finale gets a rip-snorting reading. No wonder the grateful, courteous composer presented the soloist with a silver box, which is pictured in the booklet. Nice touch.
The Concerto of Bentzon is a very much more modern work, composed in 1956. It’s in four compact movements, starting with a Fantasia and ending with a resolute March. As with Salomon’s concerto, it’s conducted by Thomas Jensen, who ensures admirable discipline and who had himself been an orchestral cellist and something of a mentor to Bengtsson. At points capricious and terse, it’s a fine work, and receives an admirable reading.
I don’t want to be greedy but Bengtsson has performed the concertos by Walton, Delius, and Britten. The Elgar is already released, as noted, but what about a British album?
Until then, or other things, this is a really first-class collection, excellently presented and of lasting musical and interpretative worth.
Jonathan Woolf

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