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Henning MANKELL (1868-1930)
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra Op. 30 (1917) [36:42]
Gösta NYSTROEM (1890-1966)
Concerto Ricercante for Piano and Chamber Orchestra (1959) [25:18]
Anna Christensson (piano)
Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz/Roberto Paternostro
rec. 2015, Ludwigshafen, Philharmonie, Germany
World premiere recording (Mankell)
Deutschlandradio Kultur production
CAPRICCIO C5240 [62:00]

At first this might seem an odd pairing, on the one hand we have a work by one of Sweden’s romanticists, which is coupled with a concerto by a composer who, along with Hilding Rosenberg, was one of the country’s leading modernists. However, this works surprisingly well with each work proving a fine contrast for the other.

Henning Mankell, who is the grandfather of the author of the ‘Wallander’ series of books and much besides, is deeply rooted in the romantic tradition; this is evident in Anna Christensson’s fine survey of his solo piano works (Phoenix Edition PE184 - review), where his music shows the influence of Chopin and to a lesser extent of Schumann and Brahms. Here, the Concerto still shows the influence of the Polish master, although with the scale and grandeur of Rachmaninov. The first movement alone is just over seventeen minutes long and has a fast-slow-fast structure so could be construed as a mini-concerto in its own right. The second and third movements follow in a similarly romantic vein, and at nearly ten minutes each it all adds up to quite a substantial and unjustly neglected work. Here the Concerto receives its premiere recording, and I can only ask why. It may not be a masterpiece, but it is interesting and attractive enough to warrant an occasional recording and public performance. There are far less worthy works out there which have achieved a popularity beyond their status.

The second work on this disc is a different kettle of fish altogether. Gösta Nystroem, despite being born only twenty two years after Henning Mankell, is stylistically streets ahead of his compatriot. I have come to know his music through the excellent recordings of his symphonies on Bis (BIS-CD-782 (Espressiva and Seria), BIS-CD-1082 (Shakeseariana and Tramontana) and BIS-CD-682 (various including Sinfonia Concertante)) as well as some of his many fine songs (BIS-CD-38L Songs at the Sea). Yes this is obviously music that is more modern than Mankell’s but it is tuneful modernity. It has a definite sequence and progression. It is not just a case of notes for the sake of it. I should suggest that Nystroem’s music has more in common with that of Allan Pettersson, Dag Wirén and with the Danish composer Vagn Holmboe than with that of Hugo Alfvén, Ture Rangström or even Kurt Atterberg. The Concerto Ricercante follows in the same vein as the symphonies; it is full of dramatic intensity with quite difficult and demandingly virtuosic passages. Nystroem asks a lot of both the soloist and the ensemble, and this despite it only being a chamber orchestra. I am glad to say that all perform well here.

The performance in both concertos is in fact excellent. I came to know of Anna Christensson through her excellent recording of the solo piano music of Hilding Rosenberg (Capriccio C5116), this led me to invest in recording of the solo piano works of Mankell (Phoenix Edition PE184). Here she shows she is equally adept in the larger-scale concerto as she is in the solo repertoire. The Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz are very spirited; indeed first rate under the direction of Roberto Paternostro of what I can only imagine was music that was new to them. Good recorded sound and booklet notes make this a most attractive disc.

Stuart Sillitoe



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