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Piano Concertos 1 and 2
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Eyvind ALN∆S (1872–1932)
Piano Concerto in D major, Op. 27 (1913) [31:25]
Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 7 (1897) [38:41]
HŚvard Gimse (piano)
Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra/Eivind Aadland
rec. 2013, Oslo Concert Hall
LAWO LWC1112 [70:11]

This disc opens proceedings with a towering splash and blast of sound. The piano is right there, front and centre, and will not let go of your ears and your lapels. Alnaes' Piano Concerto, in three movements, is an assertive and storm-tossed late-romantic piece and no mistake. It has the feel of the Grieg Piano Concerto but with an intensifying filmic overlay. The tenderly dignified Lento's brooding funereal nobility is dispelled by a "hearts and flowers" Tempo di Valse finale which contrasts with the largely unrelenting tempests of the opening Allegro moderato. This is more Glazunov, Moszkowski, Arensky or Saint-SaŽns than Rachmaninov or even Scharwenka. It's very entertaining, even so. Things are helped by the fact that Alnaes can reach for a good melody when the situation calls for one.

The Piano Concerto has been recorded previously. In recent years Hyperion gave us the world premiere where the coupling was the Sinding Piano Concerto. Alnaes can be heard on other discs. For example, there are many songs of which four are sung by Kirsten Flagstad on Eloquence. Martin Anderson's Toccata label has weighed in with songs and solo piano music. The two Alnaes' symphonies are on a Sterling CD (review review review). This conveniently brings us to the other work on this disc: Alnaes' First Symphony. This work predates the Piano Concerto by a decade and a half. Its four confident movements are heavily influenced by Tchaikovsky. It's a fluent and very animated piece of work by a 25-year-old composer. Beholden as it may be to other figures, it is enjoyable and rests easily in the company of symphonies by Paderewski, DohnŠnyi, Glazunov, Xaver Scharwenka and Louis Glass. The finale is an example of a composer at adept play with aspects of Brahms and Mendelssohn. This is updated with Tchaikovskian elements, especially in the wind writing.

The booklet is exceptionally well done with a good essay by Halvor K Hosar. It's in Norwegian and English (side by side).

Choices? This will suit those who are looking to sample Alnaes as concerto and symphony practitioner. The recordings and performances are admirable - no holds barred. No other disc has this coupling. If, on the other hand, you want to strike out in other directions then look for the two Toccata Classics discs. If you seek Alnaes in the context of the Norwegian romantic piano concerto then Hyperion are at your service and they also offer the Sinding Concerto of 1889-1901. Sterling supply both examples of Alnaes the symphonist. Lawo's version of the Alnaes Piano Concerto is full-on and may well assuage in part your interest in finding a companionably stirring listening experience after the Grieg Piano Concerto. These are all premium price discs.

Rob Barnett
Previous review: Gary Higginson



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