Notes and Editorial Reviews
The first piece I ever heard by Norwegian composer Christian Sinding (1856–1941) was his Suite in A Minor for violin and orchestra, op. 10, “In Olden Style.” Once a favorite knock-’em-dead encore vehicle for Heifetz and other famous fiddlers, it opens with a brief
Presto moto perpetuo movement that left a young, beginning violin student bedazzled and dazed. But that was a lifetime ago, and Sinding’s reputation today clings precariously to his salon-like lyric piano piece,
Rustle of Spring. Since then, I discovered that Sinding was quite prolific, turning out lots of songs (among them settings from
Des Knaben Wunderhorn), solo piano pieces, at least four symphonies, and a considerable volume of chamber works,
including a very fine piano quintet, three piano trios, and three violin sonatas, two of which are heard here along with a Suite for Violin and Piano in F.
So why is his music so little known? Four reasons, I think, may be cited: (1) Fifteen years Grieg’s junior, he arrived at a time and place already deeply immersed in musical nationalism. But Sinding was no Nordic nationalist. He studied in Berlin, Leipzig, and Munich, and spent much of his subsequent career in Germany. His aforementioned piano quintet was premiered in Leipzig by the Brodsky Quartet with Busoni at the piano. Following the First World War, he served a one-year (1921–22) professorship at the Eastman School of Music, thereafter returning home to Oslo. (2) He lived a very long life, which does not always bode well for a composer’s lasting reputation when he finds himself, at eighty-five, out of fashion and a relic of the past. (3) Sinding’s language is Romantic, but his voice is not the distinctive voice of a Grieg. In fact, it is peculiarly lacking in any particularly distinctive quality or character at all, sounding pretty enough, but otherwise generic. (4) If the foregoing were not enough to seal his fate, the nail in the coffin, so to speak, was Sinding’s end-of-life openly expressed admiration for Hitler at the very moment that German forces were occupying his own homeland. What was he thinking? As the booklet note puts it, “this probably didn’t encourage anyone to hurry in the rediscovery of his music.” That surely is an understatement.
This may be the only available recording of the two violin sonatas and the suite heard here. I find no alternative versions in my own collection, nor do I find any others listed. I’m sure though that ASV would be the first to tell us if these were premiere recordings, but they don’t, so I suspect they’re not. Another violin sonata, however, in A Major, without opus number, is available on the NKF label (Norsk Kulturrads Forlag), along with the two serenades for two violins.
All of the music on this CD is pleasant and pretty enough, even if it is rather non-descript sounding. Occasionally a flash of melodic or harmonic inspiration darts from behind the notes; yet just as often, a whiff of salon-style sentimentality catches the breeze. Violinist Marco Rogliano and pianist Maurizio Paciariello are names both new to me. Both are Roman born, of approximately the same age (mid-thirties), and were students at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory. Rogliano took further training with Ruggiero Ricci, though the flashy, more aggressive style of the elder violinist is little in evidence in Rogliano’s playing, which is smooth, refined, and restrained—quite appropriate, it would seem, for Sinding’s somewhat understated, undemonstrative muse.
This is a very nice recording of three little-known works, and a welcome addition to the violin-piano discography. Definitely recommended to those with an interest in the byways of the Scandinavian Romantic repertoire. Excellent performances, good sound, well-written notes.
Jerry Dubins, FANFARE
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