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Niklas SIVELÖV (b. 1968)
Concerto Classico for piano and orchestra [23:57]
Concerto No.2 for piano and strings [20:09]
Concerto No.5 “Riddarkonserten” for piano and brass band [20:41]
Niklas Sivelöv (piano)
Malmö Symphony Orchestra/Victor Aviat
Livgardets Dragonmusikkår/David Björkman
rec. 2016/2019, Malmö Live, Malmö; Konserthuset, Stockholm, Sweden
NAXOS 8.573181 [64:47]

It was interesting to read in the accompanying booklet that Swedish composer and pianist Niklas Sivelöv considers his Concerto Classico a jungensünde (sin of his youth), despite it have been written when he was 30. In umpteen cases throughout history composers have harshly judged their juvenilia and in many cases destroyed it or forbidden its performance. Thank goodness this is one example where a composer has allowed it to remain a part of his corpus of works and, in the case of this disc, even gone as far as to record it with himself as soloist. It is more than simply a worthy work; it is a thoroughly enjoyable one that I am sure gives pleasure whenever it is heard. I found it immediately appealing and I agree with booklet writer Søren Schauser that there are shades of Gershwin in the outer movements, but I hear elements of Hindemith too, both of which composers brought breaths of fresh air to the 1930s in bold statements infused with confidence in the future (if only they’d known what was coming!).

The concerto bursts into life right from the first note as if it had been playing silently before the sound is heard and continues in energetic mood throughout the first movement. It has a sense of fun and never takes itself too seriously. Both the outer movements are imbued with a frenetic drive that is infectious, while the central one is reflective and rather lugubrious, but segueing into the final movement the dancelike opening brings back one of the core melodies from the first movement so we know that all is well again.

Whether the Concerto Classico is considered his concerto no.1, his 2nd is for piano and strings only. It was composed only four years after the Concerto Classico, but he revised it 14 years later in 2016. This concerto has much more of a contemporary nature to it and is serious with moments of stridency as well as of great beauty.

The number of concertos for piano and brass band can be counted, if not on the fingers of one hand then certainly on two so Sivelöv’s version for this unusual combination is a welcome addition to the brass band repertoire, giving it plenty to get their teeth into. Drawing influences from the entirety of musical history it has drama aplenty as well as some wonderfully drawn moments of serenity. The sense of fun so apparent in the Concerto Classico is also never far from the surface in this one either. While the 2nd concerto doesn’t make you feel that brass is missing neither does his fifth make you aware there are no strings; such is the strength of Sivelöv’s music; it stands on its own merits and its presence is powerful enough to assert itself in every aspect.

Niklas Sivelöv proves himself not just as a composer of huge creative talent but as a convincing exponent of his own music with pianistic gifts that are equal to his compositional ability. He is given great support from both conductors and musicians on a disc that is a revelatory introduction (for me at least) to a composer of considerable interest.

Steve Arloff

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