Nielsen Bridge TEN

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

The remarkable disc, emanating from the 1999 Danish Wave music festival in New York City (which also took in the Carl Nielsen International Violin Competition), contains some spectacular music making. Yes, the repertoire selection is a bit of a mish-mash, but the performances are, one and all, stupendous. The disc begins with five of Nielsen’s most beguiling songs, classic examples of “artful simplicity” sung with an easy naturalness by baritone Lars Thodberg. Langgaard’s Third Quartet couldn’t be more different. Although the notes mention a similarity to Bartók (whom the composer certainly did not know), Scriabin comes even more readily to mind. There’s the same quixotic mixture of tonal and intensely chromatic elements, the same thematic compression (the entire three-movement work lasts a bit more than 13 minutes), and a nervous urgency that carries the listener along with feverish intensity. What’s more, the Miró String Quartet plays with positively scorching ferocity, and the close-up recording gives the music a palpable, physical impact. Wow!

That last exclamation also describes this stunning performance of Nielsen’s still too little known Violin Concerto. The reason for the work’s neglect is simple: the first movement contains all the fireworks, and while the finale’s relaxed, pastoral charm may represent the perfect emotional resolution of the purely musical contest between solo and orchestra, it simply isn’t geared to bring the house down. Still, the piece can work in performance if the soloist attacks that last movement with an uplifting rhythmic lilt and a certain rustic vigor, without undue haste. That’s exactly what Saeka Matsuyama (the Nielsen competition’s silver medallist and special prize winner) does. She also offers perfect intonation and fearlessly conquers the first movement’s virtuoso passages. Given a perfectly idiomatic accompaniment from Jan Wagner and the Odense Symphony Orchestra, the result is as fine a version of this work as any. The live recording has great presence and immediacy, with excellent balances despite the close miking. In sum, Bridge has given us a great souvenir of what must have been a terrific music festival.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Violin Concerto: Lin/Salonen (Sony)

CARL NIELSEN - Five Songs; Violin Concerto
RUED LANGGAARD - String Quartet No. 3


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