> Carl Nielsen - Orchestrations by Bo Holten [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Orchestrations by Bo HOLTEN

Commotio (1931)
Seven Early Songs (1891-3): Aeblomst (Apple Blossom); I Seraillets Have (In the Seraglio garden); Silkesko (Silken Shoes); Det bødes der for (A moment of Pleasure); Genrebillede (Genre-Painting); Irmelin Rose; Vise af 'Mogens' (Songs from 'Mogens')
Violin Sonata No. 2 (1912)
Henriette Bonde-Hansen (sop)
Bjarne Hansen (violin)
Odense SO/Bo Holten
rec 22-26 Jan 2001, Carl Nielsen Hall, Odense


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This is very much a joint effort. The composer Bo Holten has created idiomatic orchestral versions of two of Nielsen's major works (one for organ; the other for violin and piano duo) and provided orchestral accompaniments for seven early songs - one to words by Ludvig Holstein; the others to poems by Jens Peter Jacobsen. Everything on the disc is a Holten arrangement. Authenticity of interpretation is secured by having Holten as the conductor.

The symbolism of the CD cover is symmetrically rounded with three photos of Nielsen at the differing ages at which he wrote the three works. Holten, the arranger, is also pictured there.

Commotio, originally for solo organ is Nielsen's last major work. Some readers might remember it from a Turnabout LP of the early 1970s. It formed the most interesting part of a collection of Nielsen's organ works. It is a very late work post-dating the Sixth Symphony. Its organ credentials are enthusiastically embraced by Holten. Echt Nielsen touches abound - listen to 3.12 which has the same quality of softly lilting woodwind that you hear in the pastoral stretches of symphonies 3, 4 and 5. Other sections sound grandiloquently Regerian. The warmly eruptive horns at 14.12 are straight out of the Fourth and Fifth symphonies. Incidentally this work gives some speculative insight into what Nielsen's last symphony might have sounded had he managed a Sibelian seven rather than a very individual six.

The 1912 Violin Sonata is rendered as a violin concerto with many authentic touches of Nielsen-style orchestration and capricious character painting. You can hear the caprice in the ‘hiccups’ in the violin part in the allegro piacevole. The work unnervingly opens and closes in understatement - completely unconventional. Bjarne Hansen (leader of the Odense SO) was well chosen for the project. He is secure and pure of tone and plays up to the temperamental character of the piece whether as a village grotesque or an ingénu serenader. His playing is rapt and thoughtful throughout the Molto adagio (second of three movements) and explosively insistent in the Allegro piacevole which ends most unpeacefully.

The Seven Songs stand to be judged both in relation to their performance and orchestration and as a cogently formed cycle. They are all early - very early. Aeblomst is not far removed from the volkslieder of Brahms - fond, light and airy. The tradition observed by Nielsen traces its way forward from Brahms to Mahler to Schoeck (although these Nielsen songs do not reek of depression) and even to Eisler in his 'Hollywood' songs. Dr Daniel Grimley in his notes for the disc points to the Mahler influence which is accentuated by the Holten orchestrations. Holten makes refined and subtle choices time after time. In the dirge-like chanty of Det bødes der for the long sustained high pppp from the violins is masterful. Henriette Bonde-Hansen's melisma in Genrebillede is beautifully weighted and spun. Bonde-Hansen's voice has a dark tincture and an operatic torque which is valuable in several of these songs looking consciously or otherwise toward Wagner. Irmelin Rose, Nielsen's best known (least unknown?) song tells of the stony-hearted princess who turns away suitors with amusing contempt for their bearing or their diction. What makes it so memorable is the lilting refrain at the tail of each of the four verses. The last song is Vise af 'Mogens' which curiously and heartlessly pairs the tale of a lovelorn knight's page with music of bluff soldierly humour. It works rather well but the sequence would work better, I think, if the two last songs (which are humorous) came earlier and were separated from each other.

This nicely documented disc of consistently fine performances will appeal to Nielsen specialists and enthusiasts for Scandinavian song and violin concertos.

Rob Barnett.

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