We salute the musicians of Norway as the country celebrates its National Day, also known as Constitution Day, on May 17. The country continues to build on its musical past and enjoys a thriving contemporary music scene. If you are familiar only with the name of Edvard Grieg as representative of Norway's rich musical heritage, then we hope the following highlights may help broaden that perspective.
Remembered by many pianists only for his Rustle of Spring, Christian Sinding was a more important figure than this might suggest since, in his time, he was second only to Grieg himself. Geirr Tveitt was also a prolific composer and concert pianist who, encouraged by Sinding, enjoyed international success in both these roles; he also found time to systematically collect and transcribe over a thousand Norwegian folk tunes. In contrast to Grieg's largely miniaturist output, the composer, conductor and violinist Johan Svendsen left behind a number of much-loved large-scale works, including his Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2 (8.553898).
Grieg is one of the world’s best known composers, but the three Violin Sonatas are a relatively unfamiliar part of his output, despite being among his own favourite pieces. Grieg never wrote a violin concerto, and the foremost Norwegian violinist of his generation, Henning Kraggerud, assisted by Bernt Simen Lund, a member of the Tromsø Chamber Orchestra, has taken up the challenge of creating three new concertos from the sonatas. In these arrangements the solo violin is set against a string orchestra augmented by wind instruments in order to retain the feel of chamber music.
“…[Henning Kraggerud] never loses—nor does he overplay—the qualities of naivety and mythical storytelling. In all this the Tromsø Chamber Orchestra is a warm and pliant partner, and the additional instrumental colouring is highly rewarding. On its own terms, and in many ways, this is a highly covetable disc.” – The Strad
“This beautifully recorded release has to be accounted one of the most successful projects of its type ever realized, and this is certainly one of the best discs of the year.” – ClassicsToday.com
Listen to an extract from Violin Sonata No. 2 in G major: II. Allegro animato
Sibelius ranks as one of the most important and strikingly original symphonic composers of the twentieth century. His Violin Concerto, a wonderful synthesis of technical brilliance and poignant, deeply-felt melody, is one of the greatest concertos in the repertoire. It is coupled on this disc with the rarely recorded Violin Concerto No. 1, by Christian Sinding, widely remembered as the composer of The Rustle of Spring. Written within the German late Romantic tradition, the Concerto exudes cheerful ebullience and lyrical charm, a world away from the mysterious, haunting, desolate yet beautiful Scandinavia of Sibelius. The Romance, Op. 100 here receives its world première recording.
“The Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud gives a masterly performance of both concertos, warm and powerful, with a confident, wide vibrato and immaculate intonation. The recording has exceptional weight and fullness.” – Gramophone
Listen to an extract from Sinding's Violin Concerto No 1: III. Allegro giocoso
“As the high opus numbers shown on this disc of violin-and-piano music reveal, [Sinding] was very popular for a long time, in Norway and beyond, and he’s certainly a good candidate for the kind of revival project in which the Naxos label has specialized.”
“…these are bracing, clearly enthusiastic and marvelously well played readings…Engeset is very good indeed… very near the top of the chart…remarkably well controlled…so [he] finds in the music a voice very much his own…”
– American Record Guide
“Tveitt's music strikes me as an unusual and very compelling mix. Grieg meets Modernism...the music absolutely knocks me out...Gimse's fingers generate some exciting climaxes and some beautifully lyric playing...very fine music-making in unfamiliar repertory...this will probably remain one of my favorite Naxos discs.”
Listen to an extract from Piano Concerto No. 5: III. Tempo di “Halling”
“The wonderful artistry of the young Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud convinces you that [these works] merit getting to know... His rich, expressive tone and subtle inflections are ideal for the pensive lyricism of such pieces as Ole Bull's The Herd-girl's Sunday, La Melancolie and the Adagio from his E minor Violin Concerto... An enchanting programme, performed with flair and charm.”
– The Daily Telegraph (Australia)