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REVIEW

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Edvard GRIEG (1843–1907)
Cello Sonata in A minor Op. 36 (1882–83) [27:11]
Intermezzo in A minor, for cello and piano, EG 115 (1866) [3:41]
Violin Sonata No. 3 in C minor, Op. 45: Allegretto (arr. composer, cello and piano) (1887) [6:53]
Andante con moto in C minor for piano trio, EG 116 (1878) [9:00]
Percy GRAINGER (1882–1961)
Scandinavian Suite, for cello and piano (1902) [16:19]
Carl NIELSEN (1865–1931)
Strophic Songs No. 4: Sænk kun dit hoved, du blomst, Op. 21/FS 42 [1:50]
Andreas Brantelid (cello)
Christian Ihle Hadland (piano)
Lars Bjørnkjær (violin)
rec. March 2014, Potton Hall, Suffolk
Reviewed as 16-bit lossless download from eClassical
BIS BIS-2120 SACD [66:33]

This excellent recording was released a couple of years ago, but not reviewed on this site. I encountered it as part of my Piano Trio survey, as it contains Grieg’s only foray - the Andante con moto - into that genre. Of course, Grieg did not journey into chamber music in general all that often. There is the big string quartet, three violin sonatas, the fine cello sonata presented here, and a few bits and pieces.

Dane Andreas Brantelid has a relatively small CV of recordings - his name was new to me - but on the evidence of this display, he is certainly one to watch. His tone is big and rich, as it should be for such music, but he is able to rein it in for the tender and quiet moments. He plays a Stradivarius, reminding one that the legendary Italian did not just make violins.

The Cello Sonata has received plenty of recordings – Presto lists almost 50 – and by big name cellists, so new releases need to have something going for them to compete. There is no doubt that this one does, and in spades. It is not a work I have heard all that often, but Brantelid and Hadland convince me that it needs to be on my playlist regularly, which it certainly will. There are numerous highlights, but the dance episodes in the finale are wonderfully done. It was written for Grieg’s brother John, a skilled cellist who had hoped for a career as a soloist.

The arrangement of the violin sonata Allegretto was a birthday present for his brother, and is perhaps the least impressive work on the recording. The Intermezzo was intended for a suite for cello and piano, but was the only completed movement. It is simple and sweet.

I concluded in my trio survey that this performance of the Andante con moto was the finest of a relatively small bunch by some distance. The work was originally intended as the slow movement of a full trio, but Grieg did not proceed with it. It is such a lovely piece that one regrets his decision. The contribution of violinist Lars Bjørnkjær matches that of his colleagues.

The Grainger piece is a logical disc-mate for the Grieg works, given their close friendship. There is an excellent photograph in the notes of the two composers, with Grieg’s wife Nina and Dutch composer, Julius Röntgen. It is a set of five Scandinavian folk melodies, one also found as the Danish national anthem. Brantelid and Hadland give us a sparkling and committed account, not reading too much into it, focussing instead on the beautiful melodies and the infectious rhythms. The final movement features a folk dance, and in places, the cello sounds for all the world like a fiddle.

The Nielsen is simply an encore, though one could make the case that there was space for a larger work.

The production values are what one has come to expect from this label: exemplary notes and a rich, warm acoustic that spares us extraneous mechanical and performer noises.

David Barker

 




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