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A Tribute To Erling Blondal Bengtsson

Elgar / Schubert / Chopin / Jacquillat
Release Date: 09/11/2012 
Label:  Danacord   Catalog #: 724   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Sir Edward ElgarFranz SchubertCarl Maria von WeberFrédéric Chopin,   ... 
Performer:  Erling Blondal BengtssonArni Kristjansson
Conductor:  Jean-Pierre Jacquillat
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

A fine tribute to a great cellist.

We are highly indebted to Danacord for making these wonderful performances available to the general public. The collection has been released in honour of Erling Blöndal Bengtsson’s 80 th Birthday on 8 March 2012. The recordings have never been published before and they were all taped in Iceland in the 1970s. Born in Copenhagen, Bengtsson is one of the truly great cellists. Having studied under Gregor Piatigorsky at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia he is particularly noted for his infallible memory and immaculate technique.
 
The Elgar Concerto receives an intimate performance, carefully avoiding any hothouse emotions or over-sentimentality.
Read more Jacqueline du Pré is the preferred choice for many, especially in her EMI version conducted by Barbirolli, now available in a superb 30 CD box set of Elgar’s works (EMI 5099950360321). For those seeking a heart-on-sleeve approach that is still the version to beat. Bengtsson is less obviously romantic but he has the ability to draw you into his performance. The solo cello is well caught by the engineers and every note tells. The technical assurance of the soloist is masterly but more importantly his musicianship is of the highest calibre. The scherzo is played effortlessly without a hint of strain and the heart of the work – the Adagio – is simply presented and doesn’t get maudlin. The timings for the Adagio are Bengtsson [3:54] and du Pré [5:14], highlighting the difference in approach. Bengtsson’s playing isn’t rushed – it’s just that he doesn’t pull the music around as much as du Pré. Overall the concerto runs for 26:17 in Bengtsson’s hands and 30:00 in du Pré’s. My own personal favourite, André Navarra on Pye (PVCD 8384), takes 27:20 with the central Adagio clocking in at 4:37. Navarra and Bengtsson share similar views on the overall approach to the concerto and the slight detachment pays dividends. I love the du Pré record. It’s a classic but it’s not for everyday listening. I find it exhausting and emotionally stressful.
 
The Icelandic recording is clear and bright and although some woodwind details are occasionally hidden by the cello, the orchestral contribution is generally good. There are a few very minor slips in ensemble - this is a live concert after all - but at least the audience is quiet and cough-free. It’s a shame that the final tutti goes awry but that’s probably adrenalin kicking in at the home straight. More sanitised studio versions are readily available but sanitised can often be boring. This is a worthy monument to a fine artist.
 
As good as the Elgar is, in many ways the items accompanied by Árni Kristjánsson are even better. The partnership really gels and the actual recording quality has more resonance and warmth compared to the sound afforded to the concerto. The Schubert sonata is a delight from start to finish with smooth, cultured cello tone especially in the higher register and a lovely, singing reading of the slow movement. One word of caution when I use the word ‘singing’. It’s not just the cello that sings – so does the cellist. The muffled grunts and groans bring back memories of Sir John Barbirolli. It’s a minor irritation and nothing more than that. What is abundantly clear is that both performers are having fun together and the dancing rhythms really do dance. A great performance.
 
The six short encore pieces are the cellist’s answer to what orchestral conductors used refer to as lollipops. Nothing earth-shattering musically but the performances are magnificent and show a full range of emotions in a display lasting around 15 minutes. There’s some expressive, expertly phrased playing in the Corelli, Saint-Saens and Chopin; Light-hearted playfulness in the Prokofiev and Weber. Finally, there are the insane pyrotechnics of Rimsky’s Bumblebee.
 
-- John Whitmore, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Cello in E minor, Op. 85 by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Erling Blondal Bengtsson (Cello)
Conductor:  Jean-Pierre Jacquillat
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1919; England 
Date of Recording: 10/04/1973 
Venue:  Live  Háskólabíó 
Length: 27 Minutes 1 Secs. 
2.
Sonata for Arpeggione in A minor, D 821 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Arni Kristjansson (Piano), Erling Blondal Bengtsson (Cello)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1824; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 05/07/1979 
Venue:  Icelandic Radio Studio Recording 
Length: 20 Minutes 28 Secs. 
3.
Adagio & Rondo, for cello & piano: Rondo in D major by Carl Maria von Weber
Performer:  Erling Blondal Bengtsson (Cello), Arni Kristjansson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Date of Recording: 12/1975 
Venue:  Icelandic Television Studio Recordings 
Length: 2 Minutes 36 Secs. 
4.
Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor, B 160/Op. 65: 3rd movement, Largo by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Arni Kristjansson (Piano), Erling Blondal Bengtsson (Cello)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1845-1846; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 12/1975 
Venue:  Icelandic Television Studio Recordings 
Length: 3 Minutes 16 Secs. 
5.
Music for Children, op. 65: 4. Waltz by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Erling Blondal Bengtsson (Cello), Arni Kristjansson (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1935 
Date of Recording: 12/1975 
Venue:  Icelandic Television Studio Recordings 
Length: 1 Minutes 46 Secs. 
6.
Carnival of the animals: no 13, The swan by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Arni Kristjansson (Piano), Erling Blondal Bengtsson (Cello)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1886; France 
Date of Recording: 12/1975 
Venue:  Icelandic Television Studio Recordings 
Length: 2 Minutes 42 Secs. 
7.
Tale of Tsar Saltan: Suite, Op. 57 - Flight of the bumblebee by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Performer:  Arni Kristjansson (Piano), Erling Blondal Bengtsson (Cello)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1903; Russia 
Date of Recording: 12/1975 
Venue:  Icelandic Television Studio Recordings 
Length: 1 Minutes 28 Secs. 
8.
Sonatas (12) for Violin and Basso Continuo, Op. 5: no 5 in G minor - Adagio by Arcangelo Corelli
Performer:  Arni Kristjansson (Piano), Erling Blondal Bengtsson (Cello)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1700; Rome, Italy 
Date of Recording: 12/1975 
Venue:  Icelandic Television Studio Recordings 
Length: 3 Minutes 26 Secs. 

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