About this Recording
8.572254 - SINDING, C.: Violin and Piano Music, Vol. 1 (Kraggerud, Hadland)
English 

Christian Sinding (1856-1941)
Music for Violin and Piano • 1

 

One chilly, snowy, wet day in October in 2005, Henning Kraggerud and I met in the sober setting of the National Library at Solli Plass in Oslo. We were going treasure hunting, bringing with us only a few hundred grams of wood—actually a violin—Johan Svendsen’s old grand piano, and a pile of notes, brought to us by chief librarian Øyvind Norheim, who is always willing to help. Together we had decided to dive deep into the world of Christian Sinding. But first and foremost, some facts about the subject of our search.

Christian Sinding was born on 11 August 1856 at Kongsberg, the youngest of five children. Two years later the family moved to Lillehammer, but after his father’s early death in 1860 his mother moved with her children to Kristiania. Sinding started at Kristiania Cathedral School in 1867, but neglected his studies and at the age of sixteen found employment at the Hals Brothers’ piano factory, where he worked for two years. In 1874 he decided to move to Leipzig and the city’s famous conservatory, founded by Felix Mendelssohn. At this time Leipzig was a Mecca for Norwegian composers, among whom Halfdan Kjerulf, Edvard Grieg and Johan Svendsen were some of the most significant.

In 1882 Sinding returned to Munich for further studies. He made his way back to Leipzig in 1886, and at the end of this period made his first break-through, when his Piano Quintet, Op. 5, was played by the legendary violinist Adolf Brodsky’s quartet, with Ferruccio Busoni as the pianist. The critics were extremely divided, some declaring Sinding a genius, others totally condemning the work. Even bad publicity, as today, is better than none, and the quintet was regularly played, the start of Sinding’s career.

Our investigations gained pace after playing through Cantus doloris, Op. 78. This was one of the first pieces we looked into at the National Library, and also one of the first we knew had to be on this recording. The piece was published in 1906, the year after the death of Sinding’s adopted son, his wife Augusta’s son Morten, born during her first marriage. The title means “mourning song”, and is written in a passacaglia form, followed by a string of variations. This piece differs from the usually vivacious production of Sinding, and is very touching and mournful.

In his next compositions Sinding uses smaller forms. The delightful Elegie, Op. 106, No. 1, shows his ability in bringing together a continuing melody line for the violin, accompanied by a moving and restrained piano part. The same pattern is used in Andante religioso, Op. 106, No. 3, and Air, Op. 81, No. 1, while the Romance, Op. 79, No. 2, offers a more robust and independent piano voice.

Though it might be hard to believe, Sinding was an important figure in his time. The main testimony to this is that he was appointed an honorary member of the Königliche Akademie der Kunste in Berlin in 1909. Ten foreign composers were considered for this, and only two of them accepted—Sinding and Puccini. His most famous composition Frühlingsrauschen (The Rustle of Sprin) won unrivalled fame.

Albumblatt, Op. 81, No. 2 illustrates Sinding’s style, the freshness and delight of his melodic writing enhanced by a characteristic accompaniment, an example of Sinding at his best.

The charming Ständchen, Op. 89, No. 1, might suggest a composer such as Franz Schubert, while the lovely Alte Weise, Op. 89, No. 2, shows Sinding’s ability to write a true folk-song, unlike Grieg, avoiding the purely folkloristic. Together with Cantus doloris, this piece reveals a more introverted and vulnerable Sinding. The piece was played at the funeral of his wife Augusta in 1936.

The Suite in A minor, Op. 10, was originally set for piano and violin, and in the early twentieth century, it was constantly performed by all the great violinists of the time, including the likes of Jascha Heifetz and Fritz Kreisler. Sinding made his own arrangement for violin and orchestra. The suite was composed during his last period in Leipzig. The violin reveals a whirling, virtuoso first movement, followed by a subtle, slow, unutterably beautiful slow movement, while the finale reveals extremes of energy and virtuosity. Despite the wide range of chamber music by Sinding, this is the only piece still in regular print.

The Waltzes, Op. 59, are taken from a collection of six waltzes for four-hand piano. Typical of the time, popular pieces were published in numerous versions, and the Norwegian composer Eivind Alnæs arranged them for solo piano, while the German violinist Willy Burmester made his own arrangement of Waltz No. 3 in G major. Our recording features elements of all three versions, combined with our own ideas. The fourth waltz reveals a burlesque element in Sinding, while the middle part imparts an expression of Viennese delight. And finally—the lovely Berceuse, Op. 106, No. 2.

Maybe it is a lullaby for Sinding’s deceased adopted son, or perhaps it reveals the sensitivity and melancholy of a man, usually so ebullient in character.

Undoubtedly Sinding’s national reputation in Norway suffered through his supposed collaboration with the Nazis and the German occupation. A recent biography has done much to restore his position as one of the leading figures in Norwegian music and in the society of his time, fame to which it may be hoped the present recording may make its due contribution.


Christian Ihle Hadland
English translation: Christine Ihle

 

Thanks to Øyvind Norheim, The Norwegian Music Collection, The National Library of Norway, to Ole Martin Hadland for having recovered the Waltzes Op. 59 at a jumble sale, and to artist manager Laila Nordø for coordinating the recording.


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