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A Gramophone Tribute to Erling Blöndal Bengtsson: Complete HMV Solo Recordings 1950-1961
Erling Blöndal Bengtsson (cello)
rec. 1950-61, Copenhagen
DANACORD DACOCD738 [75:19 + 75:14]

Danacord continues its celebration of the art of Erling Blöndal Bengtsson with the first appearance on CD of his complete HMV recordings. Shortly before his death he authorised the release which was compiled by his wife, Merete.

Bengtsson’s Brahms is one of the highlights of this twofer. The Sonata in E minor was recorded in 1950 whilst that in F major followed in 1954. With a lean, tautly centred tone he and Victor Schiřler keep the E minor anchored securely without drifting off into expressive indulgence. Inflexions are subtly deployed, and there are no gestural rubati, or overt portamenti. The approach remains nobly conceived and the partnership sounds rock solid. That is equally true of the F minor where the pianist is Herman D. Koppel. The balance is a touch less sympathetic here, at least as far as the piano spectrum is concerned, but musically the pulse is splendidly realised. There is elegance of phrasing and an authoritative assurance throughout. It’s not sweeping playing, in the grand manner, but has other, particular virtues of scale and tone. Over half a century later he re-recorded the Brahms sonatas with Nina Kavtaradze, on a Danacord CD.

When the 1954 F major was released on HMV KALP9 it was coupled with Beethoven’s Op.69 sonata. One can hear a few sniffs from the cellist, and Schiřler’s piano sounds a touch brittle here and there, but the performance is extremely authoritative, managing to fuse aristocracy of phrasing with a sure awareness of the expressive peaks of phrases. The remaining item on disc one is a 1960 stereo take on Beethoven’s Variations on a theme from the Magic Flute which has plenty of playful wit. The two Baroque items are the only non-HMVs in this two-disc set. The Vivaldi Concerto, with the Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra Copenhagen and Henrik Sachsenskjold is in excellently recorded 1961 stereo – soloistically rich of tone and technically athletic in the faster movements. The little Boccherini Sonata, beloved of cellists and indeed violists, is also in stereo. The lithe passagework is a joy to hear. The remainder of the recordings are all accompanied by Koppel and date from 1951-52. They include a showpiece in the shape of Popper’s Elfentanz, in Cassadó’s arrangement, dispatched with great style, Piatigorsky’s transcription for cello of Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne – the highlight of which is the Serenata – and Koppel’s own Ternio, Op.63, which reveals his debt to Stravinsky even as it also explores energy, and vitality in a finale brimming with enjoyment. The remaining small pieces – Grieg, Sibelius, Rubinstein, Saint-Saëns, Boccherini and Milhaud mix the expected with the unusual, always to the benefit of the listener. There are no unusual insights here, just first-class musicianship and a good mono sound.

The restorations sound very sympathetic and the booklet notes rightly salute this outstanding musician.

Jonathan Woolf

Full track listing
CD 1
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Cello Sonata in A major, Op. 69 [21:40]
7 Variations on a Theme from Mozart's Magic Flute [9:01]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Cello Sonata in F major, Op. 99 [22:14]
Cello Sonata in E minor, Op.38 [21:52]

CD 2
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerto for cello and strings in E minor [13:09]
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Cello Sonata A major [7:49]
David POPPER (1843-1913)
Elfentanz, (arr. Cassado) [2:20]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Suite Italienne, (arr. Piatigorsky) [18:13]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
An den Frühling, (arr. Bengtsson/Koppel) [2:56]
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957) Valse triste, (arr. Bengtsson) [3:38]
Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829-1894) Romance, op. 44 No. 1 [3:24]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921) The Swan [2:24]
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974) Elegie [3:54]
Herman D. KOPPEL (1908-1998) Ternio, Op. 53B [12:44]

Other performers
Victor Schiřler (piano: Beethoven, Brahms Sonata in F major): Herman D. Koppel (piano: Brahms Sonata in E minor, Boccherini Rondo, Popper, Stravinsky, Grieg, Sibelius, Rubinstein, Saint-Saens, Milhaud, Koppel): Georg Vásárhelyi (piano: Beethoven Variations, Boccherini Sonata): Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra Copenhagen/Henrik Sachsenskjold (Vivaldi)
All mono except Beethoven Variations, Vivaldi Concerto, Boccherini Sonata



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