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TWENTY-SIX DANISH VIOLIN CONCERTOS - PLAYED BY KAI LAURSEN (1924-1996) Danacord DACOCD 461-470 (10CD not available separately)




I have been fascinated by this issue ever since I heard of its release. I now have the opportunity to review this 10 CD set and I am grateful to Discovery Records and Danacord for providing a review copy.

It is a tribute to the enthusiasm, dedication and artistry of Kai Laursen (the soloist in all these concertos) that this set exists at all. We must also not forget Jesper Buhl and Danacord for making these riches available nor the willing co-operation of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation. Would that similar sets existed for Swedish, British or USA violin concertos.

For all those who complain that the record companies are always recording the same repertoire again and again this set is a wonderful antidote. The adventurous listener will be able to save up to get the set (which is at mid-price working out to less than £8 sterling per disc) and enjoy many evenings of rewarding discovery, making lifelong friends along the way.

Although his name is completely unknown here, Kai Laursen's achievement is to be compared with that of the late Ralph Holmes or the still very much active Raphael Wallfisch who has recorded many of the British cello concertos. However in terms of sheer numbers of concertos tackled none of these artists approaches Laursen in breadth and depth of territory pioneered.

Here we have more than ten hours of music. The tapes are from Danmarks Radio supplemented by two private amateur tape recordings: the Nielsen and Grondahl concertos. The booklet points out that many of these recordings were done in a single take. The recordings span the years 1966-1978. The clean recording practices of Danmarks Radio and the sensitive production and re-mastering work of Jesper Buhl and his production team make these CDs a joy to hear. The results are natural and clear.

The set comes in a flimsy cardboard slipcase cradling five volumes, each volume with 2 CDs. Each volume is of the thickness of a single standard CD jewel-case. There are full notes for all ten in the first volume. The notes by Mogens Wenzel Andreasen are in Danish and English and run to 40 pages. To complete the span, the oil paintings on the slip-case cover and each volume are by Kai Laursen himself. The paintings are of rural or garden scenes with flowers predominating.

If you would like more information about Danacord's catalogue they have a website.



Rare repertoire. Largely romantic and certainly tonal. Many gems here. Good solid natural sound. Don't worry about the fact that some of these are mono recordings. Convincing performances. Sick of the latest round of celebrity career launch and relaunch recordings of the top ten 'great' concertos continually recycled? Buy these. Given the sheer heart of the performances and the great beauty of most of this music I'd recommend this set strongly to both the beginner and the experienced listener.

Anyway - to the task at hand:-



CLAUS SCHALL (1757-1835)

Concerto No. 4 for violin and orchestra in D major (May-July, 1790) 26:15

Aalborg Symphony Orchestra Alf Sjoen, conductor

Studio recording, Aalborg Handvaerkerforening,

May 3, 1970. MONO

This a lyrical Mozartian concerto. The first movement is in constant song with recollections, wittingly or unwittingly, of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola. The mono recording presents no problem. The sound has great immediacy. The second movement is quiet and ethereal and the playing conveys a sense of intense concentration. The last movement is an urbane and charming stroll evolving into an explosive chivalrous theme. There is perhaps some roughness at this point in the sound of the soloist but this is far from obvious and does not detract from the enjoyment of the piece.

NIELS W. GADE (1817-1890)

Capriccio for violin and orchestra in A minor (1878) 8:00

Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra Carl von Garaguly, conductor

Studio recording, Musikhuset, Sonderborg, December 21, 1976. STEREO

This is a much more modern recording of a romantic work by an early romantic composer. The music is quite brilliant as befits a caprice. Mendelssohn is the main influence but there is even the occasional forward look towards Nielsen and sideways glances at the Beethoven concerto. The work offers a nice balance of display and melody. This work pioneered by Joachim is an excellent alternative to the Mendelssohn violin concerto.

LAUNY GRONDAHL (1886-1960)

Concerto for violin and orchestra in D major, op 6 (1917) 22:11

Aalborg Symphony Orchestra Jens Schroder, conductor

Studio recording, Aalborg Handvaerkerforening, June 6, 1967. MONO (This release is based on a private amateur tape recording)

Grondahl is well known as a conductor. To collectors his reputation rests on his pioneering recordings for radio (reissued by Danacord) and Decca of a number of the Nielsen symphonies. His Danish Radio recordings of romantic Danish symphonies (including Simonsen, Borresen, Sandby and Glass) have been a valuable staple of the Danacord catalogue on both LP and CD. Grondahl was also a composer. This concerto dates from 1917 while slaughter was raging hundreds of miles away to the south in mainland Europe. There is little or no tragedy to be heard in this escapist music. The music is Elgarian and certainly if you enjoy the British composer's violin concerto you should listen to this one. There is a moment of Korngoldian melting lyricism at 2:10 in the first incident-packed movement. The second movement has its soft Delian passages all of which remind us of Delius' links with Denmark and Danish composers, notably Sandby. The third movement has plenty of attack after a walking -pace introduction with a theme and treatment which has a counterpart in Frankel's famous piece Carriage and Pair. The music gives in to schmaltz, occasionally going slightly over the top. There is a charming accelerating theme towards the end. The convincing ending is marred slightly by the sudden cut off in the recording presumably to remove well-deserved applause. This does however create a jarring transition from concert-hall ambience to silence.



Concertino for violin and orchestra in D major, op 14 (1826) 15:53

Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra Carl von Garaguly, conductor Studio recording, Musikhuset, Sonderborg. April 18,1978. STEREO

Frohlich came from a German family as did Kuhlau. This little concerto is of a Beethovenian stamp but this is the charming Beethoven of the septet and early symphonies rather than the imposingly earnest composer of the later years. There is a gentility about the first movement which avoids the commonplace. The very brief and quiet andante middle movement is followed by an explosive finale of Paganinian fireworks.


EMIL HARTMANN (1836-1898)

23:46 Concerto for violin and orchestra in G minor. op 19 (before 1880) 23:19

Aalborg Symfoni Orkester Jens Schroder, conductor

Studio recording, Aalborg Handvaerkerforening. April 10,1968. MONO

Hartmann's three movement concerto looks to Germany again. The 'hero' is the Mendelssohn concerto which makes a quite striking parallel. The middle movement is based around a charming birdsong-like 'chaffing' theme. The finale is a busy-as-a-bee flurry of activity. The work is not especially nationalist in flavour but is quite charming and full of character. If you enjoy the Mendelssohn then try this work. I would now like to hear Hartmann's Symphony No. 2 'From the Days of Knighthood'. The Concerto is quite a discovery!


Concerto for violin and orchestra in A minor (1948, revised 1968) 22:21

Aalborg Symfoni Orkester Jens Schroder, conductor

Studio recording, Aalborghallen, Aalborg,

February 6, 1975. STEREO (first performance of rev. version)

Again this is a three movement work by a composer who was a pupil of Tarp. The atmosphere asserted strongly in the first movement suggests the film scores of the 1940s. Nielsen is also an influential voice. The sound is somewhat unnatural with the violin very close to the microphone. This makes for a tiring and unremitting feeling; to the first movement especially. The second movement is lighter and explores a quieter more contented mood with a contemplative approach which occasionally suggests Rózsa. The galloping finale is a light-hearted display vehicle. The notes claim that it is a neo-classical work. Certainly this is not dry neo-classicism. An entertaining concerto. Wellejus has three symphonies to his name and after hearing this concerto I would very much like to hear them.


JOHAN SVENDSEN (1840-1911)

Concerto for violin and orchestra in A major, op 6 (1869-70) 28:56

Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra Carl von Garaguly, conductor

Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, June 19,1968. MONO

The age of this recording is beginning to show but it is a more comfortable listening experience than the Wellejus with its close-range recording. This concerto is better known and this is by no means its first recording. Svendsen was Norwegian-born but from the age of 43 until his death he lived and worked in Denmark. Laursen plays the concerto with a communicative, loving tenderness. The first movement, almost as long as the other two put together, is full of Mendelssohnian faerie-romance and Laursen lights up this music with husky tone and brilliant fantasy. The second movement is prayer-like and strongly poetic. The last movement is dashing and virtuosic. Why on earth players do not take up this concerto I do not know. It would make a happy, satisfying coupling for the famous Bruch or the Mendelssohn.

LUDWIG HOLM (1858-1928)

Concerto for violin and orchestra in G major (1916) 36:00

Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra Carl von Garaguly, conductor

Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa,

December 16, 1970. MONO

This work (probably Holm's only orchestral work), like the Grondahl, dates from the Great War years. There is something of Richard Strauss about it. It would be good to compare Strauss's own early violin concerto with this work. The work arose from a competition between Holm and Axel Gade as to who could write the most difficult concerto. The first movement is strong and imaginative with Brahmsian moments though this influence is far from oppressive. The mysterious opening of the first movement in fact suggests a much more modern approach. At 10:30 there is an extraordinarily beautiful passage and this is one amongst many. The orchestration strikes one as wonderfully well-judged. There is a bright and breezy close to the first movement. The second movement sustains the magic. This really is a superb modern romantic concerto and contrary to the occasional echoes in the first movement it is far from being a Roneo-copy of anyone else's work. The final movement has a Hungarian atmosphere rich with incident and completely unlike Nielsen. The music has a dramatic-oriental sound. This a major discovery and is well worth the time of any world class violinist. Its melodies and orchestration sound well beyond its 1916 vintage. The 1970s sound is very good indeed.


AXEL GADE (1860-1921)

Concerto No. 2 for violin and orchestra in F major, op 10 (1899) 28:47

Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra Jens Schroder, conductor

Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, June 14,1972. STEREO

Axel was the son of the more famous Neils Gade. The first movement offers up a long Mendelssohnian allegro with more than a dash of Tchaikovskian vitality. The second movement has its Rimskian moments and a deal of whistling romanticism. The third movement is a Polacca - all scintillating brilliance. Sparks fly but with a great deal more musical substance than for example the Paganini concertos.


PEDER GRAM (1881-1956)

Concerto for violin and orchestra in D major, op 20 (1919) 25:56

Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra Carl von Garaguly, conductor Studio recording, Frihedshallen, Sonderborg, June 13, 1967. MONO

Gram was a Leipzig-trained musician unlike many of the composers on this set. He was resolutely opposed to Mahler's music and according to the notes abominated late romantic music. For many years he was Music Director of Danish Radio and during that time not a single work of his was played. For all his declared opposition to the late romantics this concerto has many marks of that school. The first movement at 5:40 has a lovely chirruping clarinet theme and the work as a whole is despite the suspicion that it will be academic or desiccated is in fact very accessible without being a particularly riveting listen.

RUED LANGGAARD (1893-1952)

Concerto in one movement for violin and orchestra (August, 1943) BVN 289 8:47

Odense Symphony Orchestra Aksel Wellejus, conductor

Studio recording (first performance), Fyns Forsamlingshus.

Odense, January 10, 1968. MONO

This is a one-movement concerto with the duration of an overture. It is laid out Allegro vivace - Finale Scherzoso. The presence of a piano in the orchestra adds a piquant flavour to the proceedings. For a work written in 1943 the Mendelssohnian style is very anachronistic; not that anachronism is itself any reason to condemn music. The music is bright and buoyed up by birdsong. The world of the Mozart piano concertos colliding with the charm and romance of Mendelssohn. Entertaining music again from a composer always worth hearing.



AUGUST ENNA (1859-1939)

Concerto for violin and orchestra in D major (1897) 22:57

Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra Carl von Garaguly, conductor

Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa,

December 20, 1966. MONO

Out of the Gade and Mendelssohn school, this is another singing display piece but with the emphasis on heart rather than obviously flashy pyrotechnics. Once or twice the first movement seems to pre-echo Sibelius's Humoresques (a desperately undervalued set of pieces). The second movement makes much of Laursen's hooded tone and muses amidst birdsong and woodland rustlings. The last movement glitters and bubbles with energy.


HAKON BORRESEN (1876-1954)

Concerto for violin and orchestra in G major, Op. 11 (1904) 28:24

Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra Carl von Garaguly, conductor

Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa,

August 20, 1975

Borresen did not write a great deal of music. There are three symphonies (all available on CD from Da Capo and CPO), this concerto and several operas, the most famous of which is The Royal Guest and the most intriguing is the Iceland-set opera Kaddara which deserves revival if the aria Ujarak's Farewell is anything to go by. This is an early work with strong Brahmsian overtones and a dash of Wagner. Brilliance aplenty is required but again this is no vapid display vehicle. The poetry displayed at 10:05 of the first movement is just one example of Borresen's heartfelt inspiration. The violin is in constantly ardent song through the second movement: try 5:30 for some distinctly Elgarian poetry. Laursen's concentration and identification with the music is total. The final molto vivace has the violin dancing out of the wispy opening chords but for some time the high inspirational charge of the first two movements escapes Borresen only to be recaptured in the joyous and explosive final two minutes. Captivating and treasurable indeed. There is a competing performance from (Da Capo/Marco Polo 8.224059) played by Rebecca Hirsch. Hirsch though giving what seems to be a strong and enjoyable performance however does not have quite the involving fleetness and mercurial brilliance of Laursen.


P. E. LANGE-MULLER (1850-1926)

Concerto for violin and orchestra in C major, op 69 (1904) 21:21

Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra Peter Ernst Lassen, conductor Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, May 31,1966. MONO

A confidence and Straussian exuberance positively bursts out of this music. At 4:00 in the first movement there is a remarkable jerky little march and at 7:30 aspiring and hyper-romantic passage work for the solo violin. The second movement is largely quiet and reflective. The last movement strolls away charmingly with eagerly darting music. At 4:05 there is a chirruping theme briefly recalling one of Sibelius's Humoresques. The spiccato display at 7:10 and through to the end brings the concerto to a convincing close. This is an extremely attractive work.



Concerto for violin and orchestra in G minor, op 26 (1916) 21:52

Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra Alf Sjoen, conductor Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, May 13,1970. MONO

The Salomon was premiered by Peder Moller who also gave the first performance of the Nielsen. This concerto did not however impress me all that favourably. It has its moments as at 6:51 in the first movement with some delightfully musing passage work for the soloist. The second movement sounds a little like early Bax or perhaps Macdowell and there is even a shade of Wagner's Siegfried Idyll. The final, movement strikes me as somewhat conventional.

GUSTAV HELSTED (1857-1924)

Concerto for violin and orchestra in B minor, op 27 (1909) 21:45

Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra Carl von Garaguly, conductor Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, June 13,1974. STEREO

The Helsted is a very busy concerto with plenty of colourful and attractive activity for the soloist. It is not however all that compelling. The one exception is the lengthy passage beginning around 2:20 where Nielsen-like music is carried by the soloist who is accompanied entrancingly by a solo french horn. This is quite magical. The festive music of the third movement finale perhaps calls to mind the Tchaikovsky Concerto but not sufficiently to grab and hold the attention.



NIELS W. GADE (1817-1890)

Concerto for violin and orchestra in D minor, op 56 (1880) 26:10

Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra Ole Schmidt, conductor

Concert recording from Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, February 3, 1966. MONO

Gade conducted the Mendelssohn violin concerto while he was the conductor of the Gewandhaus concerts. It is Mendelssohn's concerto which yet again gives a reference point for this one. The first movement is dramatic and tender with leanings towards the Bruch (no.1) and Brahms. In fact there is more here in common with Brahms than Mendelssohn. It is no wonder that Joachim liked it well enough to play it several times. There is an almost constant flow of melody which is very attractive. While not, in the last analysis, a tremendously compelling work, it is certainly diverting and makes for a relaxing listening experience. The middle movement has a lower level of inspiration though pleasant enough. The last movement is much better. It has a heart-in-throat pastoral quality which stands strongly in the company of works like the Arensky, Glazunov (strong pre-echoes of that work!) and Tchaikovsky. There is very little here which I recognise as overtly Danish. It is however a work which packs great charm and glittering technique. The warm appreciation of the audience is reflected in a long segment of applause included at the end of the concerto.

CARL NIELSEN (1865-1931)

Concerto for violin and orchestra, op 33 (1911) 34:21

Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra Mariss Jansons, conductor Concert from Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, given on the occasion of Kai Laursen's 25th anniversary as first violinist, January 24, 1978. MONO (This release is based on a private amateur tape recording)

Unlike the other 25 concertos in this set the Nielsen is comparatively well known. The inclusion of Kai Laursen's performance from a private amateur tape recording is nevertheless welcome and not only as a document of an anniversary. There are, of course, a few performances of the Nielsen Concerto in the catalogue and there has been a steady though hardly overpowering flow of these over the years. I can recall Menuhin's on an old Classics for Pleasure LP from the 1960s. The ones by Cho Liang-Lin and Dong Suk-Kang on Sony and BIS respectively have been warmly welcomed. I rather liked Kim Sjogren's performance on Chandos and before that Arve Tellefsen's 1970 performance once available in a major LP box from EMI. With Laursen everything is brilliantly, lovingly and deliberately detailed. I am not sure I could recommend this over the Sony, BIS and Chandos versions but it will, due to its intensity and passion, take the same place in collections as that occupied by Jacqueline Dupre's live performance of the Elgar Cello Concerto on Sony by comparison with the much-lauded EMI/Barbirolli studio version.



OTTO MALLING (1848-1915)

Fantasia for violin and orchestra in F major, op 20 (c. 1885) 13:35

Aarhus Symphony Orchestra Jorma Panula, conductor

Studio recording, Aarhushallen, February 20, 1975. STEREO

This is a three movement concerto written by a composer clearly tutored and impressed by the works of Massenet, Saint-Saens, Tchaikovsky and Glazunov. There are even anticipations of Sibelius's concerto. Perhaps Sibelius heard the Malling Fantasia? The first movement opens with a wave figure crashing against the crags but soon evolves into a carefree joyous celebration. The solo part is flighty and displays itself in dazzling fashion without ever losing touch with the emotional kernel. Tchaikovsky is certainly an influence but the ideas are fresh and flow and change continually. The musical ideas seem well constructed and hold the attention. Everything is presented with great clarity and you get the impression that everyone including the orchestra enjoys the experience. The finale is bright and returns to the mood of the first movement. If only Malling had called it a concerto he might have had more performances.

AXEL GADE (1860-1921)

Concerto No. 1 for violin and orchestra in D major (1889) 23:41

Aarhus Symphony Orchestra Aksel Wellejus, conductor

Studio recording, Aarhushallen, March 13, 1978. STEREO

This predates the other Axel Gade concerto in the set. Atypically this is in four brief movements. This is ripely romantic music with a Brahmsian accent. At 6:00 the horns make for a magical presence. The second movement - a restful Romanza is only 3 minutes long, similar in duration to the third. The third movement is a Canzonetta with a purposeful, sharply-etched tune underpinned by a deliberately paced contribution from the orchestra. There is a sunlit, chuckling brightness about this music. The last movement is flashily melodious with distinctive tunes. Fanciers of the Glazunov and Tchaikovsky concertos will enjoy this enormously. If you know and enjoy the concertos by De Boeck and Karlowicz you should fall instantly in love with this piece.


Concerto for violin and orchestra in A minor, op 54 (1950-51) 23:29

Aarhus Symphony Orchestra Aksel Wellejus, conductor

Studio recording, Aarhushallen, May, 1973. STEREO

From a mysterious calm opening unwinds the first of the two movements of this modern sounding concerto. Riisager was a pupil of Roussel and Leflem and perhaps this does account for the different 'feel' of this piece. The melodic element is very strong but the music has more in common with say the Walton concerto than Riisager's Danish forebears. Oddly enough a Hungarian skirl is occasionally to be heard. At 4:20 there are some remarkable discordant trumpet fanfares. The concerto sometimes leans into the language of Roy Harris, Samuel Barber and Berg. The second movement opens with Straussian leaping brass. William Schuman and perhaps Alan Rawsthorne are also suggested. At 4:00 Riisager unleashes a touchingly lyrical idea and another emerges at 5:16. The movement and the work close with two pizzicato notes from the orchestra. I am strongly interested in Riisager. He intrigues me and I would very much like to hear the three symphonies. This Concerto however did not impress me strongly.



EYVIN ANDERSEN (1914-1968)

Concerto for violin and orchestra (1964) 30:38

Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra Alf Sjoen, conductor

Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, May 10, 1975 (first performance) STEREO

It is interesting to note the premiere of this work written four years before the composer's death taking place 11 years after Andersen's death. Andersen was born in Colorado, USA but graduated as an organist from the Royal Academy of Music in Copenhagen. He made his career in Denmark with the Danish Radio SO and as Head of the School of Ancient Music.

The Concerto was written for and dedicated to his son, Jan. This is a spiky, modernistic work without being wildly atonal. Honegger is mentioned in the booklet as an influence but I doubt this hearing the influences as being more Slav than Gallic/Helvetian but all filtered through an atonal gauze.

The first movement pitches in with a Shostakovich-like petulance and it is this Russian composer and Prokofiev who often come to mind. The edges of the music are jagged though there is tense on-the-edge lyricism here but it is the slightly stressed world of the Rawsthorne and Frankel violin concertos that comes most readily to mind when listening to this movement.

The second movement wanders through a desolate landscape. There is a certain all-purpose, threnody-like, early Penderecki feeling to the string writing. The last movement is athletically challenging and clearly a technical tour-de-force for any soloist. Overall I am far from sure that this work is marked out for an international future but those in sympathy with the composer references I have mentioned should try it out. I would be interested in hearing the impressions of others.


Concerto No. 2 for violin and orchestra (1961) 28:04

Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra Alf Sjoen, conductor

Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, May 26, 1975. STEREO


Bentzon is one of those composers awaiting wider discovery. His reputation teeters on the edge of celebrity. People know in a general way that there is some extremely impressive music there but its awesome quantity and its inaccessibility are an obstacle to all but the most intrepid explorer. His symphonies have had broadcasts in the UK during the late 1970s and early 1980s with the BBC Welsh SO conducted by Ole Schmidt and created a finger-hold impression at the time.

This concerto was premiered by Andre Gertler in November 1963. If anything this is even spikier than the Andersen work. Often a difficult nut to crack, it is a step onwards from works such as the William Schuman Violin Concerto. It is a work of contrasts though. For illustration, try the closing minutes of the first movement which have a particularly ethereal beauty paralleled by the closing measures of the second movement. The last movement has a buzzing purposeful activity but is ultimately episodic and ends because it does rather than with any sense of fulfilment. The booklet speaks of Bentzon proving that the music of the last century has not been exhausted yet and says that he seems like an Arch-Romantic. Well, I have heard impressive works by Bentzon (among the symphonies and piano concertos) but I did not find this one in that category.



Concerto for violin and orchestra, op 48 (1926) 17:50

Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra Carl von Garaguly, conductor

Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, June 12, 1969. MONO

This is a great rarity - full of Christmas-like atmosphere and the chiming of miniature bells. The carolling tunes are rather out of the Nielsen school although Emborg is said to be of the Hindemith camp and according to the booklet he had some success in Germany. He was extremely prolific with three operas, a ballet, various short orchestral works, songs and piano and chamber music to his name.

As the concerto unfolds it is revealed as a florid work of no great tuneful distinction in three short movements. These total 17 minutes: another 'pocket concerto.' The central adagio muses quietly with a hint of Gerald Finzi's Introit (now when is the whole of Finzi's violin concerto going to be reconstructed and revived). The violinist catches an attractive husky tone for this movement. The last movement is lively and leans back into Nielsen's sound-world. It ends with jubilant work for the bells.

LEIF THYBO (b. 1922)

Concerto for violin and orchestra (1969) 28:34

Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra Carl-August Vogt, conductor

Concert recording from Frihedshallen, Sonderborg, February 10,1971. MONO

Leif Thybo may be known to some as the arranger (for organ) of Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks. His concertos for cello and piano date from the 1960s and are said to be worth exploring. The violin concerto belongs to the end of that decade. It did not have to wait long for this first and only recording. This is not the premiere although Lauren was the soloist who presented it in 1969 with Miltiades Caridis conducting the Danish RSO. This is another thorny concerto; which for all that inspiration catches fire from time to time (e.g. in the wonderful barbarous march at 8:10 Track 4) does not move me.

VAGN HOLMBOE (1909-1996)

Concerto 9 per violino, viola et orchestra, op 39 (1968) 19:15

Erik Spillemose, viola, Southern Jutland Symphony Orchestra Carl von Garaguly, conductor Studio recording, Sonderjyllandshallen, Aabenraa, June 19, 1969. MONO

This concerto begins in typical Holmboe fashion with an arresting punchy attack. This motor-like energy is never far away from then on. The two soloists carol away beautifully. The music has hints of Sibelius and Copland and once or twice perhaps wanders into the world of Vaughan Williams' Violin Concerto or Holst's Double Violin Concerto. In the second movement the solo viola opens proceedings unaccompanied and is soon joined by the violin. The mood is slightly bleak and the exploring contemplative tune has Holstian overtones (Egdon Heath or the more obvious parallel of the Lyric Movement). If we did not know we were dealing with Denmark we might think that the last movement was influenced by square dance music and the fiddle tunes of Appalachia. At least that is the first impression. It is not long before distinctively Scandinavian elements assert themselves. The violin sings high and happy - ably partnered by the viola. Vigorous dance interludes are interspersed with music which seems to reach into E.J. Moeran territory.

We should hear this work as frequently as say the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante. This music is utterly delectable while being completely different from the softer-edged warmly romantic music of most of the rest of the music in the set. Holmboe's music is a Danish national treasure - a world international treasure - and a highpoint on which to close the set.



I would like to think that the next similar set from Denmark will give us never before recorded symphonies from the Danish repertoire. The symphonies of Louis Glass (1-4 as yet unrecorded), Victor Bendix, Sandby, Hamerik, Simonsen, Gram, Tarp, Bentzon and many others are very much due this sort of attention. Now imagine … if only the BBC would catch the same bug - we could have a set comprising all of Vernon Handley's Bax symphony (3, 5, 6, 7) radio broadcasts; Rootham Symphony No. 2, Arthur Butterworth 1-4, Moeran Del Mar, Arnell 5 and 6, Brian, Somervell and so many others! RB



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