A DR Tribute to Erling BlŲndal Bengtsson: The Early Danish Recordings: 1955-59
Samuel BARBER (1910-1981)
Cello Concerto in A minor Op.22 (1945) [28:47] Ļ
Siegfried SALOMON (1885-1962)
Cello Concerto in D minor Op.34 (1922) [29:02] ≤
Niels Viggo BENTZON (1919-2000)
Cello Concerto No.1 Op.106 (1956) ≤
Erling BlŲndal Bengtsson (cello)
Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra/Nikolai Malko Ļ
Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra/Thomas Jensen ≤
rec. November 1955, Concert Hall, Danish Radio, Copenhagen (Barber): August 1957, Tivoli Concert Hall, Copenhagen (Bentzon); June 1959, Concert Hall, Danish Radio, Copenhagen (Salomon)
DANACORD DACOCD 727 [78:54]
 
An earlier tribute album in this series [DACOCD 724] released Erling BlŲndal Bengtssonís 1973-79 performances of Elgarís Concerto, Schubertís Arpeggione Sonata and a pleasing raft of encores. Iíve not heard it, but if itís as good as this latest release itís likely to be impressive. This second volume delves much further back into Danish Radioís archive to resurrect three concerto performances with the Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra.
 
The sound quality for the period 1955-59 is excellent. I donít know how much restoration was necessary, and one simply canít tell so good are the results. The earliest work to be taped is Barberís Concerto where the cellist is joined by Nikolai Malko in the Scandinavian premiere of the work. Raya Garbousova premiŤred 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. Itís 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. Itís 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. Itís 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. Itís in four compact movements, starting with a Fantasia and ending with a resolute March. As with Salomonís concerto, itís 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, itís a fine work, and receives an admirable reading.
 
I donít 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
 
A really first-class collection, excellently presented and of lasting musical and interpretative worth.

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