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Romantic Violin Concertos / Christina Astrand, Et Al

Release Date: 08/25/2009 
Label:  Dacapo   Catalog #: 6220562   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Niels GadePeter E. Lange-MüllerRued Langgaard
Performer:  Christina ÅstrandVille Hautala
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.


GADE Violin Concerto in d. LANGE-MÜLLER Violin Concerto in C. LANGGAARD Violin Concerto 1 Christina Åstrand (vn); John Storgårds, cond; Ville Hautala (pn); 1 Read more class="ARIAL12"> Tampere PO dacapo 6.220562 (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 61:27)

Hearing a program like this sets one musing on what decides the fate of a piece of music. Here are two fine violin concertos, engagingly melodic, well structured, and finely orchestrated. One, the Niels Gade Concerto, was written as a gift for Joseph Joachim—for whom Brahms, Bruch, and Dvo?ák had also written concertos—and he premiered the work in Berlin in 1881; as auspicious a start as any work could hope for. It was premiered in Denmark soon after, played by a couple of other German violinists for a while, but soon faded from view. By 1969, historian Kai Aage Bruun would write it off as “pale,” an apparently favorite term of dismissal, since he applied the same term to Lange-Müller’s Concerto, as well.

Peter Lange-Müller wrote his Concerto more than 20 years later, in 1902, with, coincidentally, the assistance of Axel Gade, son of Niels Gade and like his father, a virtuoso violinist. It is not a traditional Romantic violin concerto, either in structure—the three movements do not strictly conform to the standard configuration—or in style, since the soloist does not really contend dramatically with the orchestra, is not consistently the focus of the music, and is not offered much in the way of brilliant effects. That might have been enough in itself to seal the fate of the work, but with the composer’s sanction, Gade and at least two other violinists wrote cadenzas for the work that not only interrupted the natural flow of the first movement, but also, by their conspicuous display, highlighted the eschewing of such virtuoso brilliance elsewhere. The result was obscurity even greater than that of the Gade Concerto.

These first-rate performances by Christina Åstrand, for many of her 35 or so years the leader of the Danish National Orchestra, could change some minds. It is hard to imagine anyone finding these works pale as presented here; a composer could hardly ask for better advocacy than hers. Conductor John Storgårds—he is a violinist, as well—and the fine Tampere Philharmonic are no less committed, especially notable for their heart-felt phrasing and sensitive support of the soloist. Her playing has an alluring sweetness, especially in the warm acoustic of Tampere Concert Hall, soaring strength in all registers, and is flawlessly accurate.

And what are they advocating? In the Gade it is a winning combination of Mendelssohn’s melodic grace and Brahms’s warmth in three nicely contrasted movements, while Lange-Müller offers almost Elgarian nobiltà . Grieg is suggested by his Allegretto sostenuto movement, while charming folk dance-like elements predominate in the last. There is no lack of individual character and no suggestion of derivation, but anyone fond of the more famous composers will find some comfortable familiarity in these works. Even the quirky, often angry Langgaard here creates an ingratiating impression. This “concerto” is more an abstract of a concertante work—the solo piano almost as important as the violin—much as the 11th Symphony was an abstract of a symphony. It has more thematic unity than most of this composer’s work—its 10-minute length may be a factor—a chamber-music delicacy, and very real nostalgic charm. All three are well worth knowing. I can only hope that this release—not the first recording of any of the works, but definitely the most accomplished—will result in a surge of interest in these fine concertos.

FANFARE: Ronald E. Grames
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin in D minor, Op. 56 by Niels Gade
Performer:  Christina Åstrand (Violin)
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1880; Denmark 
Length: 26 Minutes 58 Secs. 
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in C major, Op. 69 by Peter E. Lange-Müller
Performer:  Christina Åstrand (Violin)
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Length: 24 Minutes 56 Secs. 
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, BVN 82 by Rued Langgaard
Performer:  Ville Hautala (Piano), Christina Åstrand (Violin)
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 9 Minutes 33 Secs. 

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