MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2023
Approaching 60,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs
 

Presto Music CD retailer
 
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for
advertisements

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

TROUBADISC
Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews


FOGHORN Classics

Alexandra-Quartet
Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews


All HDTT reviews


Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World


all Nimbus reviews



all tudor reviews


Follow us on Twitter


Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
Webmaster
   David Barker
Postmaster
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

REVIEW
RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Plain text for smartphones & printers

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
In finstrer Mitternacht
Zwei Rhapsodien, op. 79 (1879) [17:15]
Sonate No. 3, op. 5 (1853) [36:13]
Ballade op. 10, No. 1 [4:54]
Nils Anders Mortensen (piano)
rec. 9-13 May 2013, Jar Church, Brum
LAWO CLASSICS LWC1084 SACD [58:24]

I’ve come across Nils Anders Mortensen as an accompanist on some nice vocal recitals with mezzo-soprano Marianne Beate Kielland on the Lawo label, including Frh with Berg, Webern and Schoenberg (review). This is not his solo debut, but careful selection and preparation of repertoire clearly stands above massive productivity for this artist.

The title for this release implies literary associations, and indeed, Andrew Smith’s booklet notes have extended poetic quotations. The line in question refers to programmatic content proposed for the second movement of the Third Sonata, “Steh ich in finstrer Mitternacht / So einsam auf der stillen wacht …” Evidence for this kinds of interpretation can be found in quotations from Lieder and other poetic sources, and there is no doubting this work’s romantic content. Mortensen doesn’t include text of his own on this or any other subject, and I’m personally more inclined to take these performances at face value.
 
Mortensen takes the Agitato marking of the First Rhapsody less impetuously than some at the outset, preferring to reserve his dynamics for a ‘real’ f ten bars in. This is playing with plenty of power, though the emphasis is more on the moments of beauty than on the more overtly extrovert peaks. I rather like this well considered, poetic approach, and this carries through to the Second Rhapsody in which the drama sizzles underneath rather than being pitched with fury. Mortensen gives himself plenty of places to go, rather than ending up in a constant retreat from too explosive an exposition. This is thoughtful, exploratory Brahms, and while you may not agree with each and every rubato has much to commend it.

The Third Piano Sonata as suggested previously, has its own poetic associations, and Mortensen’s playing reflects this in deeply expressive and lyrical lines, sensitively spread chords and a feeling that every corner of this piece has been weighed and examined for its own significance, as well as its importance for the flow and structure of the movement as a whole. As in a poem, atmospheres, moods and expressive inflections are recalled, each with its own variations echoing from the events that have occurred since it last appeared. Mortensen’s touch in the Andante is really rather special, and you just have to close your eyes and let the whole thing take you on its own meandering but inevitable path, picking up diamonds along the way. The Scherzo really dances, the left hand here animating and driving everything compulsively. It will have been pointed out before that the Intermezzo [pre..] the likes of Mahler, but Mortensen let the notes speak for themselves – they’re eloquent enough. The quicksilver changes of the Finale are delivered with an electric sense of anticipation, making special things out of passages where, if not played with this kind of precise expressive intent, can sound as if Brahms was running short of good ideas by this point. The quirks in this are by no means hidden, but Mortensen clearly believes in Brahms and in that the composer knew what he was doing. Adding a fine performance of the minor-key Ballade Op. 10 No. 2 to conclude the programme returns us to the dark theme of the title for this disc.

Lawo’s SACD sound is very good indeed as you might expect, and with a church acoustic which is like a warm embrace rather than a cold bath this CD already has plenty of appeal. Competition is of course fierce in Brahms’ piano works, the two Rhapsodies already comfortably established on my shelves with versions by Murray Perahia, and the more dramatic Radu Lupu. The Third Piano Sonata goes up against the likes of Jonathan Plowright, whose superb performance remains second to none in my opinion.

I have spent quite a bit of time with Nils Anders Mortensen’s recording and have come to appreciate its excellent qualities more each time I’ve returned to it. Rather than supplanting other versions, this recording informs and complements them, adding a personal, sensitively tuned and remarkably intelligent voice to the traditions around these remarkable pieces.

Dominy Clements

 

 



Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and keep us afloat

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews



all Bridge reviews


all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews


All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews

 

Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing