Notes and Editorial Reviews
Lars Bjørnkjær (vn); Giordano Bellincampi, cond; Aarhus SO
DANACORD 662 (64:57)
About a decade ago (20:5), I had the opportunity to review a 10-disc collection of Danish violin concertos, many of them taken from live broadcasts in performances by Kai Laursen,
issued by Danacord (461), and discovered among them the technically rather conservative Concerto by the Norwegian expatriate Johan Svendsen (1840–1911), composer of the
(included), the popular favorite that kept Svendsen’s name alive among violinists, and the more “exuberant and appealing” Concerto by Peter Erasmus Lange-Müller (1850–1926). Svendsen wrote his Concerto while playing the violin in theater orchestras in Paris, and, according to Troels Svendsen’s notes, he dedicated it to his teacher in Leipzig, Ferdinand David. Like Carl Goldmark’s melodious Concerto, Svendsen’s doesn’t emphasize display, but while Goldmark’s actually challenges the soloist with virtuosic passages of great difficulty, these seem to be lacking in Svendsen’s. Laursen’s performance from 1968 had been captured in a mono studio recording, so Bjørnkjær’s, which appears in more recent recorded sound, has an edge. In my review of Laursen’s recording, I noted the exuberant finale as a high point in the Concerto, but in Bjørnkjær’s performance, the first movement seems to bear most of the weight. The
that follows hardly seems like an afterthought; and in this suggestive performance by Bjørnkjær (compare Grumiaux’s reading re-released in “Violin Romance,” Philips Eloquence 8290), at once more strongly violinistic but also perhaps less sensitive, it recalls the central movement of Grieg’s Third Sonata in both its nostalgic exaltation and its middle section’s playfulness. The recorded sound locates the soloist in the orchestral web rather than in front of it; but it conveys the full splendor of his 1714 Yoldi-Moldenhauer Stradivari.
Axel Gade, Niels Gade’s son and student of Joseph Joachim, assisted the composer with suggestions for the violin part and provided the first movement’s cadenza; supposedly, August Enna helped Lange-Müller with the orchestration. I noted in reviewing Laursen’s 1966 mono studio recording that “while it may not be Paganini’s seventh concerto technically, it isn’t Delius’s second, either (though Svendsen’s notes suggest it’s been called more fantasy than concerto). While Laursen may have appeared “far to the fore,” Bjørnkjær once again seems in more discrete balance with the orchestra. Passages of greater difficulty rub shoulders with melodies of heartbreaking sentiment; and though Gade’s cadenza might sound technically—and perhaps harmonically as well—almost too complex for the rest of the movement, a comparable dash returns in the finale’s thematic opening section (though not in the more brooding middle section accompanied by pizzicatos).
Bjørnkjær plays these concertos with great security and stylistic sympathy and with a more sophisticated refinement and softer focus than Laursen could muster—and in congenial partnership with Bellincampi and the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra. While neither of these concertos provides the soloist with the supercharged material that Scandinavian former violinists Sibelius and Nielsen provided, their highly accessible melodic and harmonic styles should recommend them to all kinds of listeners. Recommended.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin in A major, Op. 6: Andante by Johan Svendsen
Lars Bjornkjaer (Violin)
Aarhus Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1869-1870; Norway
Length: 8 Minutes 22 Secs.
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