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Nordic Rhapsody
Christian SINDING (1856-1941)
Suite im alten Stil, Op 10 [12.12]
Wilhelm STENHAMMAR (1871-1927)
Two Sentimental Romances, Op 28 [11.28]
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Souvenir, Tanz-Idylle & Berceuse from Six Pieces, Op 79 [10.21]
Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Romance in D major, CNW 61[3.03]
Einojuhani RAUTAVAARA (1928-2016)
Notturno e danza (1993) [8.18]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Violin Sonata No 1 in F major, Op 8 [21.31]
Johan Dalene (violin)
Christian Ihle Hadland (piano)
rec. Culturum, Nyköpping, Sweden, September 2020
BIS BIS-2560 SACD [68.24]

In any recorded recital, three qualities are surely essential – interesting repertoire, thoughtful programming and outstanding execution. All three criteria are met here, and abundantly so.

Johan Dalene, from Sweden, and the Norwegian Christian Ihle Hadland, despite their youth, have already developed distinguished careers. Dalene is a BBC New Generation Artist (2019-2022), and listeners to Radio 3 may well be familiar with his talent.

The largest piece on the CD is the Grieg Violin Sonata. It dates from 1865, so is a youthful work. One is very aware of the influence of the Leipzig school in formal design, and Germanic elements are more prominent than in later works. Nevertheless, there are distinctly Norwegian touches – the influence of folk music, rather than specific tunes, can be felt throughout. The tenor of the work is serious, but with a touching lyricism. Notice also the confidence of the writing. The performances here are poetic as required, but also forceful where appropriate. Phrases lack nothing in either fire or – where appropriate – poetry. A fascinating work, wonderfully realized.

Other pieces are likely to be familiar to lovers of Scandinavian music. An exception might be Rautavaara’s Notturno e danza from 1993. Originally composed as a competition test piece for young chamber musicians, it is an effective and rather lovely work. Rautavaara was fascinated by the idea of light, and the sense of light is beautifully captured in the lyrical Notturno, a lovely, long-lined meditation by the violin, which is very moving (the composer reused some of the material in Angel of Light, his 7th Symphony). The succeeding little dance is a cheerful contrast.

Sinding’s Suite im alten Stil (1889) appears in its original form for violin and piano (it was quickly orchestrated by the composer), and a lovely work it is. The Adagio is most affecting, and lovingly performed here. The touches of the baroque (the ‘old style’) give way to a yearning romanticism, and the entire work satisfies.

Interest in Stenhammar often focuses on his symphonies, and, more recently, on his wonderful quartets. But these two Sentimental Romances, from 1910, will give much pleasure. Often intense, they nevertheless fall easily on the ear, with various depths revealed in repeated hearings. The first Romance is beautifully poised. Originally composed for full orchestra, the work benefits from the transcription for piano made by the composer himself. The sense of intimacy is moving indeed, and instantly attractive. I think I prefer this version to the one with orchestration, but would not be without either.

The selection from Sibelius’ Six Pieces (1915) offers a contrast in style and technical demands, but the hand of master is evident throughout. It is difficult to imagine more satisfactory performances than those here.

This is a splendid release, aided by first-rate SACD recording. I look forward to hearing much more from these admirable performers. I hope BIS will oblige!

Michael Wilkinson

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