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Finnish violin ABCD507
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Other Finnish Works for Violin
Agnes TSCHETSCHULIN (1859-1942)
Puszata-Film (1928) [4:01]
Gavotte (1906) [2:34]
Berceuse (1888) [2:52]
Alla Zingaresca (1890) [2:17]
Ida MOBERG (1859-1947)
Marcia (1939) [2:57]
Minna von KNORRING (1846-1918)
Nocturne (1910) [3:13]
Betzy HOLMBERG (1860-1900)
Andante (1886) [5:08]
Laura NETZEL (1839-1927)
La Gondoliera, Op 60 (1896) [3:16]
Romance, Op 40 (1896) [3:13]
Chanson Slave, Op 53 (1891) [3:50]
Ingeborg von BRONSART (1840-1913)
Romanze in A Major (1870) [5:58]
Phantasie, Op 21 (1891) [10:14]
Mirka Malmi (violin)
Tiina Karakorpi (piano)
rec. April 2021, Fiskarin Lukaali, Fiskars
ALBA ABCD507 [49:35]

Once past the rather laconic disc title – ‘Other Finnish Works for Violin’ is somewhat undemonstrative, to put it mildly – we are in the land of female composers born between 1839 and 1860. For the most part these are morceaux composed over a near-sixty-year span between 1870 and 1928 and reflect a small and rather overlooked corner of Finnish composition.

Agnes Tschetschulin was a violinist – she led the all-female Marie Soldat string quartet – and for some years taught in England, before returning to her native country where she died in 1942. Her four pieces conform to the vogues then current, not least pastiche Hungariana in the case of Puszata-Film, with its cadential opening, and the too-short, Sarasatean Alla Zingaresca. Meanwhile the Gavotte suggests the influence of Kreisler’s baroquerie and the Berceuse is sheer salon charm. Ida Moberg was an exact contemporary of Tschetschulin and based in Helsinki where her metier was orchestral composition. Her Marcia of 1939 is a late piece, an unpretentious affair intended for teaching purposes.

Somewhat older was Minna von Knorring, a song composer, whose Nocturne has a strong narrative thread and encodes some dance motifs into its three-minute length. As can be seen, none of these pieces is written with a Brucknerian sense of breadth. The Andante of Betzy Holmberg offers a well profiled melodic line and finely distributed writing for both violin and piano though, try as I did, I failed to locate much of the ‘fantastic, mythic and exalted imagery’ the booklet notes suggest, nor much in the way of ‘Gothic-style “storm and stress”’. Laura Netzel was a Finnish-Swedish composer who wrote under the pseudonym N. Lagoand and is here represented by three works dating from the 1890s – unlike Tschetschulin, whose four pieces span 40 years of composition. The booklet suggests that the music she wrote abounds in ‘bold colours, decadent tones and symbolist elements’ and whilst I certainly like the sound of all this, none of these elements are present in the three character pieces here. The first is a barcarolle with a Venetian lilt and hint of the coquettish to it, the second a charming Romance, and the third a rustic Chanson slave, somewhat on the salon side, though with a more serious-minded B section.

Of all the composers here, I suspect that Ingeborg von Bronsart is the best known, not least for her operas that were staged in Germany. Born Ingeborg Starck of Finnish parents living in St Petersburg, she was to study with Liszt and performed as a virtuoso until her marriage brought her performing career to an end. The long lines of her Romanze, couched in formal German romantic style, have more virtuosic elements too and a tempestuous section versed in Schumann. The Phantasie is a larger scaled work, in fact by some way the biggest such in the programme. It has its melancholic elements as well as more flexible moments, as one would expect from its title. These are her only surviving works for violin and piano, through there are three similar pieces for cello and piano, and that seems to be the total of her surviving chamber music.

The recording quality holds the instruments at a slight remove and isn’t especially alluring, though manages to clarify the sound well enough. Mirka Malmi and Tiina Karakorpi form a congenial duo – and I approve of the use of a Bösendorfer. Both are active in propagating music by Finnish women composers in concert and via broadcasting. At 49 minutes the programme isn’t especially generous, and the pieces are mostly somewhat generic, but they do accurately reflect a strain in lighter music of the time.

Jonathan Woolf

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