Joseph GIBBS (1698 – 1788)
Sonata in D minor, Op. 1 (1746) [10:38]
Edvard GRIEG (1843 – 1907)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in F, Op. 8 (1865) [19:32]
Eugène YSAŸE (1858 – 1931)
Chant d’hivèr, Op. 15 (Winter Song, 1902) [13:11]
Tor AULIN (1866 – 1914)
Four Water Colours for Violin and Piano (1899) [13:34]
Nilla Pierrou (violin)
Karl Bergemann (piano)
rec. 11 September 1978, 21 September 1981 (Aulin), Norddeutsche Rundfunk, Kleiner Sendesaal, Landesfunkhaus Niedersachsen, Hannover
OAK GROVE CD2035 [57:15]
Oak Grove has previously issued three boxes with a total of ten CDs with recordings by Nilla Pierrou (review ~ review ~ review). A few of the recordings were studio efforts licenced from the commercial companies but the majority was material from various radio archives and other sources. Nilla Pierrou was one of the greatest violinists of her generation, but she was sadly neglected by the big companies, and those boxes presented a welcome comprehensive picture of “The Art of Nilla Pierrou”. Now here comes a sequel to the boxes, well-timed to Nilla’s 70th anniversary. Most of the contents is also to be found on the boxes, but in different recordings, and the interplay with Karl Bergemann is truly inspired.
The “new” music – and this is indeed a novelty – is the sonata by Joseph Gibbs. Gibbs was a rather obscure church musician in Essex, north-east of London, but he seems to have studied for Thomas Roseingrave, who settled in London on returning to Britain after a long sojourn abroad, where he studied with Domenico Scarlatti. The sonata is the first of a group of eight, which is Gibbs’s only completely preserved composition of importance. All eight sonatas are actually available on CD (Claudio CR36067). I haven’t heard them, but considering the quality of the one presented here, they could be worth investigating – although I doubt anyone can play them better than Nilla does. The beautiful tone, the exquisite phrasing, the perfect double-stops and the glow in the attack are features that one immediately reacts to in the opening adagio – but also the nice melody, written in 1746 when this completely unknown master was approaching fifty. And a master he was, which is fully obvious in the allemande, short but efficient. Even shorter is the etheric largo, but the most inventive is the concluding aria con variazioni, not least in the interplay between the violin and the piano. Note the long sequence with double-stops, played with Kreislerian sweetness.
The sonata is a find that should be heard more often. It is worth the price of the disc alone. Eleven minutes’ playing time seems short value for money, but in the bargain you get a riveting reading of Grieg’s youthful first sonata played with brio – yes, wrote brio before I noticed Grieg’s indication in the time signature. In the second movement he amply demonstrates his national abode in the trio, where Norwegian folklore is very present. The third movement is a tour de force in electrifying violinism, crowned by a whirlwind presto.
Ysaÿe’s Chant d’hiver from 1902 was written in London and is filled with subtle chromatism and technical filigree work. The melancholy basic mood may be a reflexion of the grey moisty Southern English weather. The fog that wraps up the houses in a leaden coat. As a grateful contrast to this, Aulin’s Water colours are filled with light and fresh Nordic nature. Idyll can measure up with anything by the likes of Svendsen, Stenhammar, Sinding or Peterson-Berger, Humoresque is like a blond girl in white summer dress gliding over a flower-filled meadow in June, Lullaby, a favourite of Misha Elman’s, is etherically soothing, the husked playing here can hardly be surpassed, not even by Nilla’s own commercial recording, available in one of the boxes. In the Polska we are transported to an open-air dance floor, decorated with leafy branches, with folk fiddlers beating time in a down-to-earth manner – but here there is subtlety as well – and a portion of melancholy.
Karl Bergemann, whose life was cut short far too early, is a perceptive and inspirational co-player, the recorded sound is excellent and lovingly transferred to disc and the documentation, as always with Oak Grove, all-embracing. Readers who already own one or more of the boxes, hardly need a recommendation from me to acquire this follow-up disc, and those who buy it and want to hear more of Nilla Pierrou – a natural reaction – should know that box CD 2027 can be ordered in digital form from Eclassical and that the other two are promised to be available in the near future from the same source.