This is an attractive collection of well-known and less familiar
Nordic works for string orchestra.
It commences with a vibrant, enthusiastic, nicely articulated performance
of the Holberg Suite
’s ‘Prelude’. This is
as expected of these Norwegian players so accustomed to the niceties
of the Grieg idiom. The succeeding movements impress strongly too:
a tender poetic ‘Sarabande’; the gentle pastoral/folk
music of the ‘Gavotte-Musette’; the poignant, yearning
‘Air’ and the vivacity that is the concluding ‘Rigaudon’.
Tonnesen’s reading could hardly be bettered. At the other end
of the concert there is Sibelius’s melancholy waltz, Valse
. This poignantly evokes a dying woman’s dream of
dancers around her bed, then joining them and meeting Death in the
guise of her deceased husband who has come to claim her.
Kurt Atterberg’s imaginative, evocative and dramatic music has
always enthralled me especially his symphonies. His Suite for Violin,
Viola and String Orchestra was originally conceived as incidental
music to Maurice Maeterlinck’s play Sister Beatrice
This lovely, soulful music would have graced a 1940s Warner Bros ‘weepie’,
and that is no disparagement. Quoting the good notes to this album:
“The opening Prelude is a richly-harmonised nocturne in which
the voices of the violin and viola intertwine in full-hearted duet.”
The ‘Pantomim’ second movement has a chorale-like theme
supporting the “solo instruments’ passionate lament”.
The finale ‘Vision’ starts in a Sibelius-Valse Triste
waltz but develops into a larger canvass. This work is worth the price
of the CD alone.
Johan Svendsen’s Romance for Violin and Orchestra is another
gorgeous piece with the violin luxuriating in golden memories with
lively dancing recalled in the happy mid-section. Nielsen’s Little Suite
was an early creation before the great symphonies.
It has long been popular and although cast in the beginnings of his
own inimitable style, it owes something to Brahms and Dvořák.
The middle movement waltz entrances. Edvard Bræin’s melodic Serenade for Viola and Orchestra
moves from a grave soliloquy
for the viola, against the strings, to a lighter waltz before despondency
An appealing concert of string music from a polished ensemble.
and the earlier review by Brian Reinhart ...
This CD is “light” enough that it might
escape critical attention, or your attention, but it shouldn’t,
because it is flawless. The Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, hidden away
for recording sessions in a rural church with artistic director and
lead violinist Terje Tønnesen and globally-acclaimed violist
Lars Anders Tomter, have here assembled a programme that blends popular
hits with hits you just don’t know yet.
There is nothing to complain about anywhere. We get a fresh Grieg Holberg
with sharp rhythms and great solo lines, easily the equal
of other recent Holberg
recordings by the likes of the Bergen
(on SACD) or Oslo
. There’s also a fine Sibelius Valse triste
as an encore; and in between a slew of works less popular but no less
Kurt Atterberg’s Suite No. 3 for violin, viola and string orchestra
has become a popular coupling lately, appearing on a Naxos disc and
on the first volume of the Chandos Atterberg series. The performance
here is wonderfully warm and idiomatic, and both soloists are outstanding.
Tønnesen also solos in Johan Svendsen’s Romance
a sure-fire radio hit if I’ve ever heard one. With its big romantic
tune and simply lavish writing, it sounds like the slow movement to
the greatest violin concerto never written.
Violist Tomter has an even more obscure solo: a serenade by Edvard Fliflet
Bræin (1924-1976; the æ is pronounced like the “a”
in “apple”), who was active from the end of the Second World
War until his death in 1976. One of his last pieces: an opera based
on a play by Holberg, in tribute to whom Grieg wrote his suite. The
for viola and orchestra is one of Bræin’s
very first adult compositions, dating from 1947 (age 23). It reveals,
maybe, why he’s so little-known: the music is so pretty, tuneful,
and calmly appealing that it would have been a hit fifty years before
it was written. I love it.
Add in totally winning performances of Nielsen’s Little Suite
- as fresh and youthful as you could wish - and Sibelius’ Valse
(a bittersweet encore), and you have a joyful programme wonderfully
played. The sound quality, even on 320
kbps MP3s from ClassicsOnline
, is flawless. Even when Tønnesen
rhapsodizes in his Svendsen solo number, every accompanist is fully
audible behind him, such are the benefits of the small orchestra and
the warm, inviting church acoustic. Is it clear that I couldn’t
be happier with this CD?