GRAMOPHONE Magazine Editor's Choice - February 2016. dB Productions celebrate the 150th anniversary of Carl Nielsen with two CD volumes of his music! Featured again on this second volume is one of Sweden’s leading violinists, Cecilia Zilliacus, in Nielsen’s violin concerto. The Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra is conducted by young rising star, Daniel Blendulf.
The ensemble London Winds, praised by BBC Music for its 'technical accomplishment, expressive commitment and warmth of timbre', presents in this recording great twentieth-century works for winds. It features music by Hindemith, Nielsen, and Janáček, and, from the next generation, Barber and Ligeti. Although not equally prolific (Kleine Kammermusik is Hindemith's single contribution to that genre while winds are generally more prominence in Nielsen's music), all these composers brought the wind repertoire back to prominence, after a quiet period of more than a century. The music is full of playfulness and European folk colours.
The second installment in Sakari Oramo's superb hybrid SACD cycle of the symphonies of Carl Nielsen on BIS presents the Symphony No. 1 in G minor and the Symphony No. 3, "Sinfonia espansiva," two ruggedly independent works that reflect the composer's late Romantic style yet point to the modernism to come. While the Symphony No. 1 was influenced by Brahms and offers a rich harmonic language, propulsive rhythms, and a fairly homogenous orchestral palette, the Symphony No. 3 is striking for its reliance on unfolding counterpoint and long-breathed lines, and most notable for the use of wordless parts for soprano and baritone voices in the pastoral slow movement. These performances by Oramo and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra are exceptional for their stunning power and spacious feeling, though the crisp details and focused sound quality will be the biggest draw for audiophiles.
The Barbirolli Societys latest release is a 2-CD set of the complete concert given in the Free Trade Hall, Manchester on 20 October 1960, with the combined forces of the Hallé and BBC Northern Symphony Orchestras. The concert consisted of Nielsens Symphony No.5 and Mahlers Symphony No.7. Michael Kennedy, writing in 2000, stated: Performances of the (Mahler) Seventh were much rarer then than they are today, and Mahlerian scholars and enthusiasts flocked to Manchester for the event, among them Deryck Cooke who was profoundly impressed by Sir Johns ability to make the works structure cohere. This was an especially significant comment coming from Cooke, who harboured many doubts about the symphony and confessed to finding it most problematical.
This sensational disc has served as a reference edition for both concertos since it was first issued back in the late 1980s. The Sibelius concerto is distinguished by the tension between Lin’s passionate and virtuosic account of the solo part and Salonen’s remarkable precision at the head of the orchestra. Listen, for example, to the remarkable rhythmic clarity at the opening of the finale, and to the way this serves to “float” Lin’s daredevil pyrotechnics up above. It’s just marvellous. The same holds true of the Nielsen–there is no finer account of this neglected concerto. It’s a rarity because in the finale Nielsen subordinates flash and dazzle to the work’s overall emotional arc, progressing from anger to contentment. That doesn’t mean the music isn’t excellent, or that Lin and Salonen’s performances aren’t gripping from first note to last. They tear into the opening movement with apt ferocity and find the necessary emotional resolution in the work’s amiable conclusion. The detailed, well-balanced sound ideally suits the interpretations. Essential.
Born into a musical Latvian family violinist Baiba Skride won First Prize at the 2010 Queen Elisabeth Competition, held annually in Belgium. Ms. Skride’s natural approach to her music making has endeared her to some of today’s most important conductors and orchestras. Following her debut at the BBC Proms with the Oslo Philharmonic and Vasily Petrenko playing the Szymanowski Concerto No. 1, The Times noted, ‘Latvian violinist Baiba Skride sailed over the orchestra with long lines of melody, silver and sweet.’ She was immediately re-invited, and at the 2014 Proms played the Stravinsky Concerto with the BBC Symphony and Ed Gardner. Baiba Skride debut recording with Orfeo of the Szymanowski Concertos and Myths was nominated for the 2015 BBC Music Magazine Awards in the Concerto section. For her Orfeo CD follow up she has recorded two Scandinavian violin concertos truly exciting, fresh and innovative – Jean Sibelius’s well-loved concerto and Carl Nielsen’s unjustly neglected companion work – with the Tampere Philharmonic and conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali.