Nordic Violin Music
Agnes TSCHETSCHULIN (1859-1942)
Berceuse (1888) [2:56]
Tor AULIN (1866-1914)
Four Aquarelles (1899) [15:31]
Christian SINDING (1856-1941)
Romanze Op.79 No.2 (1907) [7:09]
Bengt CARLSON (1890-1953)
Violin Sonata in E flat minor Op.6 (1918) [36:05] ¹
Annemarie Åström (violin)
Sonja Fräki (piano)
Emil Holmström (piano) ¹
rec. August 2010, Nya Paviljongen, Kauniainen
ALBA ABCD 347 [62:01]
There’s a good balance between the known and the unknown in this release, and it’s almost always the latter that gets the collecting juices flowing. So let’s take Bengt Carlson first. Born in 1890, he studied in Helsinki and then, before the First World War, in Paris as a student of d’Indy. He wrote the Violin Sonata in 1918 at the age of 28 and it remained a favourite work of his youth, though he was never to compose another large-scale chamber work in the 25 years left to him. The manuscript of the Sonata was found in the archives of the Finnish Music Information Centre and this is its first ever recording. It’s probably also the first performance since its last known outing, at the Nordic Music Festival in 1921.
It’s written in four movements and lasts around 36 minutes in this performance. It bears the impression of chromatic Franco-Belgian violin writing, notably Franck, but perhaps less so Lekeu. There’s certainly a pervasive late-Wagnerianism too. The writing for both instruments sounds demanding, something this work also shares with the Franck. Puckish pizzicati lighten the rather unrelieved music in the fast second movement, where the sprite-like element is quite heavy. A sense of misterisoso and the clotted inhabit the Lento, a high tension lyricism that just about manages not to occlude the writing. The finale shifts close to a free fantasia at a few points but forms a strong and powerful conclusion, not least in a reprise, just before the end, of the mysterious spirit that lit up the slow movement. One problem emerges, however: in the finale the performers have taken out a repeat section, drawing on the precedent of earlier performances in which both the outer movements were cut. The first movement in this recording is heard intact. Then, in the booklet notes, in a strange twist, both Annemarie Åström and Emil Holmström ask any future performers to perform the finale in its original, uncut format. Which is fine, except that they haven’t. At the very least, I wish they’d recorded the uncut finale and included it as an appendix. That way we, and any prospective performers, could listen for ourselves and decide whether we prefer the ‘fantasia’ approach or the ‘stodgy sonata repeat’ form, if that’s what’s being offered.
After these textual problems it’s a relief to turn to the other music. The little known Agnes Tschetschulin’s Berceuse is a salon charmer from 1888, burnished with a few period slides. It’s certainly not profound, but then it doesn’t make any pretence to be so. Tor Aulin’s Four Aquarelles are what I’d call fringe-famous. But it’s surprising to see how very few recordings there are around of all four. Most fiddlers pick and choose, which makes their inclusion all the better. At the heart of the disc sits Sinding’s Romanze, a much loved piece, given an effective reading here.
Congratulations to Annemarie Åström for this well-balanced recital and to Emil Holmström for his work in the arduous thickets of the Carlson, and to Sonja Fräki for the less strenuous character pieces elsewhere.
Jonathan Woolf 

A good balance between the known and the unknown. 

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