Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

Mark L Lehman
American Record Guide, November 2011

Everything on this recital is lively, refined, pleasing, and well-made, played with polish and verve by pianist Tonya Lemoh, and recorded in velvet-smooth…

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

MusicWeb International, August 2011

Svend Erik Tarp is one of Denmark’s foremost 20th century composers still awaiting proper discovery by the music-loving public. The works on this disc are from Tarp’s earlier years, and none is quintessentially representative of his fairly large corpus—his mainly post-war orchestral works are much more significant. The CD blurb on the back cover claims that Tarp was “at the height of his career” in 1956, the year he wrote the Sonata, but there were still many key works to come, even thirty years later. Three of his major compositions, in fact—the Te Deum, Piano Concerto in C and the Seventh Symphony—appeared on the last disc published by Dacapo, or indeed any other label, dedicated to Tarp’s music—way back in 1992 (DCCD 9005).

Major works or not, these are all indisputably appealing pieces on a smaller scale, beautifully played by Australian pianist Tonya Lemoh, now based in Denmark, in her first recording for Dacapo. Tarp’s music is instantly likeable without being superficial, like that of his fellow Scandinavian Grieg, whose imaginative, melodic piano miniatures are often called to mind, or to a lesser degree like that of Ravel or de Falla, whom Tarp also occasionally resembles, as in the Three Improvisations. Even the slow movement of the later, condensed Sonata is still quite Griegian in its sonorities, although this otherwise lively work is more reminiscent in general of Granados.

Sound quality is very good, although the piano action is sometimes a little on the noisy side. The CD case is made of card and the booklet is housed in a slot that will, alas, not last for ever. The booklet itself, however, is excellent: informative, well-written and well-presented: everything pretty much as it should be. The only slight quibble is that the notes sometimes tend towards overstatement—to describe the final section of the wistful Theme with Variations as having “fierce intensity and immense dissonance” is to give the wrong impression: there is nothing here that Chopin could not have come up with, and perhaps did in a parallel universe. It is also surprising to read that, for all its delights, the Theme with Variations “was perhaps his most important work for the piano”—even discounting the Piano Concerto and comparing only solo works, the Three Improvisations and the Sonata are more profound.

The CD could certainly have been more generous in length, but on the whole this is a quality artefact that all but recommends itself.

Rob Barnett
MusicWeb International, August 2011

Svend Erik Tarp, born in Thisted, Denmark, studied music at the University of Copenhagen and from 1930 to 1932 at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. His teachers were Knud Jeppesen (music theory) and Rudolph Simonsen (piano). Later he continued his studies in Germany, Austria and Holland. He worked with KODA promoting the performance rights of Danish composers and also as musical adviser at Danish National Radio (1956–62). The radio company played its part in introducing me to Tarp’s orchestral music. It was through their broadcasts and a friend in Denmark that I had the privilege of hearing some of Tarp’s symphonies: No. 1 Sinfonia divertente (1945) (Ole Schmidt/DR Symphony Orchestra), No. 3 Quasi una Fantasia (1958) (Sonderjyllands Symphony Orchestra/Carl Von Garaguly), No. 5 (1976) (Aalborg Symphony Orchestra/ Jens Schröder), No. 6 (1977) (DR Symphony Orchestra/John Frandsen), No. 7 Galaxy 1981 (Odense BO/ Tamas Vetö) and No. 8 (1989) (DR Symphony Orchestra/Leif Segerstam).

The Theme (carillon) with Variations dates from the German occupation. The innocence of the theme is rarely lost across the six variations. Miniature glittering dissonances appear as do some more muscular ones in the final variant. There is something here of Le Tombeau de Couperin, the outdoor Moeran and the indoor Warlock.

The much earlier four movement Suite is a piece of neo-Baroque extravagance with a strong romantic aspect. Its Intermezzo defies expectations with a tenderly gentle melody touched in by Lemoh with grave beauty. It’s very much of the twentieth century; by no means a slavish antique facsimile.

The three 1945 Sonatinas are by turns glitteringly athletic (3, I and III), happily steeped in extroversion, delightfully moonlit (No. 1 II) and gravely thoughtful (3, II).

The Three Improvisations move from cut-glass splendour with some hints of Kodaly to a dignified subtle Lento in the similitude of a Dowland pavane to a motoric Allegro molto vivace with Bartókian crunches and clangour.

The Sonata op. 60 is the latest work here. Its first movement is quite rigidly patterned and neo-classical while, as ever, the Lento is a gentle and fragile effusion. Tarp has a gift for pensive moments in time. This is contrasted with a finale that has the vigour of Gershwin melded with a sunny morning demeanour.

There is some talk of Stravinsky’s influence but I heard nothing taking us anywhere near close to that often desiccated neo-classicism.

I do urge you to try this most intriguing and musically valuable disc.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2011

Svend Erik Tarp avoided going down that road of atonality being offered by the Second Viennese School, and chose to compose music that would please the ear. Born 1908, he began his studies in his homeland before enhancing them in Germany, Austria and Holland. It was a cosmopolitan backdrop heard in his music that embraced so many genres. Maybe his work as a teacher, musical administrator, and advisor to the Danish radio, rather deflected attention from his music, yet he was still active late in life, completing his tenth symphony when he was eighty-four. His output for piano was sizeable, and in later years showed influences of Bartók and Prokofiev, the whole disc of such a pleasing and immediately attractive experience. Only briefly do we hear music with an aggressive impact in the opening outburst of the short three-movement Sonata, but we soon move back to a musical comfort zone in the second movement. By contrast the four-movement Suite has an element of salon music, while the Three Sonatinas are each created from little cameos. The performer, Tonya Lemoh, was born in Australia, but later moved to study in Europe and the USA, eventually coming to Denmark’s Aarhus’s Royal Academy of Music. Competition successes in Denmark have forged a lasting link with Danish music, and you feel throughout the disc a performer who is so engrossed and enjoying the music she is playing. Technically outstanding, she has that ‘touch’ that can bring magical moments to quiet passages. The sound engineering offers a realistic concert hall perspective of a very fine piano.

David Hurwitz, April 2011

The works on this disc range from 1927 to 1956, and reveal Danish composer Svend Erik Tarp (1908–94) synthesizing a personal language from the French keyboard tradition of Ravel and Poulenc, with a healthy dose of Bartók’s rhythmic drive mixed in. The basic outlook is neoclassical; the textures glitter; witty and diverting (but never cheap or facile) tunes abound; and occasional forays into polytonality and arresting dissonances add spice. It’s wholly delightful.

The major works here are the Sonata (1956), a beautifully crafted three-movement work with an exquisite slow movement and a touch of jazz in its finale; the Theme with variations, tremendously inventive and colorful; and the 3 Sonatinas, charming and pithy, but also wide-ranging in expression and full of character. They are all very affectingly played by Tonya Lemoh, who projects the often driving rhythms without ever banging or forgetting their melodic essence. The whole production is extremely well recorded by Da Capo’s engineers.

Tarp’s music is a real “find” that piano fanciers will certainly want to experience without delay. He also composed about 10 symphonies that (according to the notes) show his musical idiom evolving in new directions over time, and it would be very interesting to hear them. I can only hope that this disc signals the intention of further releases of Tarp’s music. It’s difficult to tell from such a small sampling, but on evidence here Tarp was the real deal—a significant voice in 20th-century music, one well worth getting to know.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group