Review by: David Vernier
Artistic Quality: 10
Sound Quality: 10
The disc’s title is “Nordic Dream”; I’m not sure what that means, but the performances and the musical selections–works for string orchestra by nine Scandinavian composers–transcend, or at least make you forget about details of programmatic intentions. And that’s a very good thing: programs such as this (and this same group has previously offered recordings titled “Italian Journey” and “Russian Soul”) often falter when the demands of a seemingly clever program idea override the fundamental principles of creating an effective listener experience. Which is to say that for a CD listener, for a program like this, compatibility of the musical works matters much more than how well the selections technically satisfy the chosen theme.
Although you may not be that familiar with the work of a few of the composers represented here–for example, Norwegian Edvard Bræin (1924-1976); Swedish bassist/composer Jan Alm (b. 1955) and countryman Dag Wirén (1905-1986)–their music makes excellent company with that of Sibelius, Halvorsen, Svendsen, Atterberg, Bull, and Sinding, roaming freely, brightly (Wirén’s Serenade), sometimes poignant (Bræin’s Serenade; Atterberg’s Suite), sometimes wistful and moody (Bull’s Sæterjentens Søndag; Svendsen’s Romance), all of it in the realm of the late-romantic, melody-centered (often folk-music-based), and harmony-rich modes of Grieg, Nielsen, and Sibelius (is that a little quote from Grieg’s Peer Gynt in Halvorsen’s Chant de Veslemøy?).
Besides the organizing of the program around the “Nordic” theme, the higher purpose of the recording is to highlight the 15 young performers–string players in their teens and early 20s–who form the youth orchestra LGT Young Soloists, a cultural project sponsored by a private bank in Liechtenstein. These musicians, from a dozen different countries, all demonstrate the highest level of technique and musicianship, bringing an impressive vibrancy, energy, and expressive power to works both familiar and new–from the premiere of Jan Alm’s Two Poems for double bass, harp, and string orchestra (definitely a highlight of the disc) to one of the most affecting performances of Sibelius’ Valse triste you will ever hear. There’s not a weak spot anywhere, and you don’t mind that several of the pieces are presented in arrangements, recast from their original settings to feature a different solo instrument or orchestral forces–Sibelius’ Souvenir Op. 99 No. 3 for cello and string orchestra rather than for piano solo; Bræin’s Serenade for viola and string orchestra rather than full orchestra; Svendsen’s romance for cello rather than violin. The performances are gorgeous, and together make a program that you will never tire of repeating.
Oh yes, and the sound–the sound on this disc is absolutely stunning, recalling the exciting moments in the early days of digital recording when you occasionally heard something so realistic, so “room-filling”, so present you could feel it. Pure pleasure, not to be missed.
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Recording Details:Album Title: Nordic Dream--Works for String Orchestra
DAG WIRÉN: Serenade Op. 11 for string orchestra
EDVARD BRÆIN: Serenade for viola & string orchestra (arr. Paul Struck)
JEAN SIBELIUS: Souvenir from Eight Short Pieces Op. 99 No. 3 (arr. Struck); Valse triste Op. 44
KURT ATTERBERG: Suite No. 3, Op. 19 No. 1 for violin, viola, & string orchestra
OLE BULL: Sæterjentens Søndag for violin & string orchestra (arr. J. Svendsen)
CHRISTIAN SINDING: Serenade Op. 33 No. 4 for harp & string orchestra (arr. Struck)
JOHANN SVENDSEN: Romance in G major Op. 26 for cello & string orchestra (original for violin)
JOHAN HALVORSEN: Chant de "Veslemøy" for violin & string orchestra
JAN ALM: Two Poems for double bass, harp, & string orchestra
- Various soloists
LGT Young Soloists, Alexander Gilman
- RCA - 19075818812