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Carla Rees
MusicWeb International, May 2009

Niels Peter Jensen was a composer from the Danish Golden Age who contracted an eye infection as a baby and was completely blind by the age of ten. He received his musical education at The Royal Institution for the Blind and quickly became a successful concert artist. As a flute player himself, he wrote a number of pieces for his own instrument, studying with eminent composers such as Kuhlau, who himself was noted for his flute music.

The op. 6 Sonata, Jensen’s first flute sonata, is light and lyrical, composed earlier than Kuhlau’s first Sonata—which dates from 1824. The music is relatively uncomplicated, with simple piano textures and flowing lines. Jensen’s music has a clear sense of melody and uses the range of the flute well. The Sonata is in the key of F minor, beginning with a march-like theme with the flute balanced well with the piano. The second movement is a lilting waltz, while the third movement further demonstrates Jensen’s awareness of expressive lines. The finale is a lively Rondo which runs to a duration of just over seven minutes, balancing the rest of the sonata well.

Written in the mid-1820s, the Three Fantasias or Caprices op. 14 are virtuoso unaccompanied studies for flute which go some way towards telling us of Jensen’s skill as a player. Two of the Fantasias are heard here, No. 1 in E minor and No. 3 in F major, both in three movement form. These are enjoyable works which hold the interest of the listener and are played with a wonderful sense of flow and energy. The semiquavers are evenly executed and Rune Most plays with an even tone across the range of the instrument.

The remaining item on this disc is the op. 18 Sonata, composed in 1828. Another long work at almost half an hour’s duration, this four movement work is more musically complex than the first sonata, with hints of Romanticism in the writing and a more demanding role for the piano. The lyricism of the earlier Sonata is retained, but with more frequent modulations and a grander sense of scale. Once again in four movement form, the moderately paced 11 minute opening movement is followed by an expressive Adagio. A simple Menuetto ensues, and the piece is brought to a close with an energetic Rondo.

The playing on this disc is excellent. Rune Most has been largely responsible for a renewed interest in Jensen’s music through recordings and public performance, and the composer would undoubtedly be happy to have such an excellent player as an advocate for his music. Pianist Frode Stengaard accompanies with sensitivity and a lightness of touch which suits this music well. These two players are a delight to listen to.

Laura RĂ³nai
Fanfare, May 2009

Last year I wrote an enthusiastic review of a Dacapo release of flute duets by Niels Peter Jensen featuring the same Rune Most, partnering Brazilian flutist Marcelo Barboza [8.226029]. At the time, I expressed the view that that recording was Want List material. So I approached this new CD in a hopeful but worried state of mind. The problem of recording a beautiful CD is that the expectations for the next are too high, and hard to fulfill.

I need not have worried. The same winning team that made the CD of flute duets a joy to behold proves that their skills are honed, and repeat their excellent results. The two sonatas for flute and piano—op. 6 and op. 18—are lovely, and even though the fantasias will be of interest mainly to flutists, they are certainly worth recording, rising above the usual solo flute study material. Rune Most faces the challenge of playing the difficult solo pieces with determination and grace. The same graphic team (elevator-design) that made the flute duets CD an object pleasurable to look at produces another attractive cover; liner notes (by the same Jens Cornelius) are again informative and well penned; sound engineering (by Morten Mogensen) is top-notch; in short, everything that worked so well for the first CD is equally efficient here. Pianist Frode Stengaard fits perfectly into this competent group. The playing is smooth, simple yet flexible, with no hint of exhibitionism or exaggeration.

For decades now, I have learned to expect good surprises from that most civilized of countries, Denmark, besides great furniture and tableware design and the best-looking soccer teams in the world. Dacapo, supported by the Danish Arts Council Committee for Music, is a good example of how public institutions can have policies that actually make sense and deserve praise. Any person interested in the flute will find that Denmark is a flowing source of goodies; the more one looks in that direction, the more one can find wonderful composers, wonderful music, and wonderful interpreters, as well as a genuine governmental interest in the culture of the country and a willingness to give full access to its riches to the largest possible number of individuals. It is worth mentioning that the scores for all the pieces on this CD, as well as a huge array of flute pieces—both edited and in facsimile format—can be downloaded for free at the site of the Danish National library.

Coming back to the CD at hand—once again, this is not music that will change the history of humankind, and it will probably not move you to tears or make you fall in love with the flute if you happen to be a flute hater. But it is unpretentious music, composed with skill and wit, and rendered with equivalent mastery. A must for flutists, and warmly recommended to everyone else. Dacapo, please keep them coming!

Carl Bauman
American Record Guide, March 2009

The performances are good, as is the recording. The notes are thorough.

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