Suite for String Orchestra, Op.1
Romance for Violin and Orchestra, Op.26
Armida – Overture
Variazioni Pastorali, Op.8 (Variations on a theme of Beethoven)
Concerto Piccolo for wind quintet and string orchestra, Op.35
Impromptu for Strings
Richard Tognetti (violin)
Nordic Chamber Orchestra
Recorded January 2006 in Tonhallen, Sundsvall, Sweden
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: September 2007
CD No: BIS-CD-1538
Duration: 61 minutes
This Nordic Showcase begins in Denmark with Nielsen’s uncharacteristic Opus One, albeit music that is Scandinavian in timbre to be sure: translucent and sinewy in the opening movement, the succeeding waltz-like ‘Intermezzo’ is lively and tuneful, and the finale begins with intense measures anticipating the later and greater Nielsen before skittish ideas end the work on a light note. The Nordic Chamber Orchestra plays with virtuosity, unanimity and feeling, Christian Lindberg (his trombone left at home pro tem) leads an enlivening performance, to which Johan Svendsen’s Romance makes a melodious and tender counterpart, Richard Tognetti a stylish and expressive soloist. We are now in Norway.
Back to 18th-century Sweden for music by Anders Wesström (1720-1781), who, having given up his legal career, was a much-travelled composer who studied with Tartini. His opera “Armida” is prefaced by this three-section overture, the second of which is a lovely slow movement not unlike the ‘Air’ (on the G string) from Bach’s D minor Orchestral Suite. Now to Iceland and Jón Leifs (1899-1968), his ‘Beethoven Variations’; the Theme is from Beethoven’s Opus 8, the Serenade (for string trio). It’s quite unlike any of Leifs’s seismic blockbusters (although there are explosive ‘moments’, and some humour, too); rather it is of courtly formality but with ever-increasing harmonic extensions that overlay Beethoven’s original; such simple and complex commentaries occasionally remind of Charles Ives’s Symphony No.3 (The Camp Meeting), and Leifs covers a lot of ground in 11 minutes: this piece is quite an entertaining find.
Back to Sweden for Concerto Piccolo by Bo Linde (1933-70), another gem – mixing acerbity with sparkle and melody with wit – Hindemith meets Malcolm Arnold. Finally to Finland and to Sibelius, his Impromptu, an eloquently dark ‘chip’ (intensified by a less vibrato in this performance) that is solemnly beautiful and, then, offset by a radiant dance-like section that reminds that Sibelius, whether writing ‘large’ or ‘small’, was able to craft such remarkably indelible music.
Excellent renditions and recording complete a very attractive issue.