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HALVORSEN, J.: Violin Concerto / NIELSEN, C.: Violin Concerto / SVENDSEN: Romance (Kraggerud, Malmö Symphony, Engeset)

Naxos 8.573738, December 2017
   Fanfare, July 2017
   MusicWeb International, May 2017
   Hi Fi Review (Hong Kong), May 2017
   Classical Voice North America, April 2017
   Gramophone, April 2017
   The WholeNote, March 2017
   Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, March 2017
   WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk), March 2017, March 2017
   The Norwegian American, March 2017
   Harry’s classical music corner, March 2017
   Pizzicato, March 2017, March 2017
   KlassiskMusikk, March 2017
   Classic FM, March 2017
   WFMT (Chicago), February 2017
   David's Review Corner, February 2017, February 2017
   Records International, February 2017

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Laurie Niles, December 2017

The 2017 Holiday Gift Guide

Who knew that Johan Halvorsen—as in the “Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia”—wrote a violin concerto? He did, but then it was performed only three times, all in 1909, by Canadian prodigy Kathleen Parlow, who was just 18 years old. But the manuscript score went with her wherever she lived throughout her life, her personal archives ending up in the University of Toronto library archives, only to be rediscovered in 2016. Violinist Henning Kraggerud gives it a gorgeous 21st century premiere with this first-ever recording, on Naxos. © 2017

Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, July 2017

Kraggerud, who has devoted much of his estimable talent to the music of native Scandinavian composers, is in his element here in these works by Halvorsen, Nielsen, and Johan Svendsen.

Everything is superbly played…and this disc is very strongly recommended for the Halvorsen and Nielsen Concertos. © 2017 Fanfare Read complete review

Bob Stevenson
MusicWeb International, May 2017

Henning Kraggerud is the soloist on the present disc and he is pretty good, …[his] playing that gradually suggests itself…is a kind of smooth reticence and this means that the performance as a whole comes across as slightly less individual and less strongly characterised than the others.

I don’t expect to hear a better performance of this work any time soon and Kraggerud’s style is clean and distraction-free…

The recording is excellent, with the soloist suitably up-front but not over-spotlit. © 2017 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Hi Fi Review (Hong Kong), May 2017

Kraggerud successfully brought out the charm of the Halvorsen Concerto, intense and tenderness between the swing, romantic performance. © 2017 Hi Fi Review (Hong Kong)

Paul E. Robinson
Classical Voice North America, April 2017

Kraggerud makes an excellent case for the revival of [Halvorsen’s] neglected concerto.

A very attractive piece, [Svendsen’s] should be played more often. Kraggerud gives it a lovely performance on this CD. © 2017 Classical Voice North America Read complete review

Andrew Mellor
Gramophone, April 2017

So is Johan Halvorsen’s 1909 Violin Concerto—presumed destroyed until it was found in 2015—a rediscovered masterpiece? Perhaps not. But it’s a whole lot more than characterless late-Romantic note-spinning, with some fascinating and arresting structural features and at times a highly individual gait. The way the accompaniment stalks the leading device in the second movement could even foreshadow Prokofiev, while the finale’s swing tells you it’s in three when it’s actually in four. Henning Kraggerud’s woody but relatively contained sound fits the piece beautifully until, as in that finale, you want the soloist to take proceedings by the scruff of the neck. Kraggerud never really does and the concerto’s final pages can feel a little unsure of themselves as a result. © 2017 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Terry Robbins
The WholeNote, March 2017

The concerto by the Norwegian Halvorsen… [is] a lovely work, full of lyrical themes and redolent of Norwegian folk music, with more than a hint of Hardanger fiddle music. The solo part is technically demanding, but Kraggerud is clearly in his element with a work which will hopefully find a place in the regular repertoire.

The Nielsen concerto, written just a few years after the Halvorsen in 1911, continues to be a work which should be much better known, but hopefully this is changing, Haggerud’s terrific performance here coming not long after Baiba Skride’s equally excellent 2015 recording.

A lovely performance of the Svendsen Romance rounds out an outstanding CD. © 2017 The WholeNote Read complete review

Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, March 2017

The Halvorsen performance certainly makes this release worth pursuing in itself. But then we have the Nielsen Concerto nicely done. If you do not have or have not heard this aspect of the Nielsen complete opus you no doubt should.

Johan Svendsen’s “Romance” is a sweet surprise. It is northern lyric rhapsodicy in a fine fettle.

And all-in-all this is a thoughtful combination, well worth the good Naxos price. Hear it! © 2017 Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review Read complete review

Masche Drost
WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk), March 2017

Hand on heart, not every musical excavation is valuable—many pieces simply deserve obscurity. Sometimes, however, true treasures slumber in archives or on attics. John Halvorsen’s Violin concerto is one of them… © 2017 WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk)

James Manheim, March 2017

Kraggerud and Sweden’s Malmö Symphony Orchestra under Bjarte Engeset have plainly worked with the music extensively. A highly enjoyable release, and essentially a must for lovers of Scandinavian music. © 2017 Read complete review

The Norwegian American, March 2017

As the shouts of “Bravo!” rose in Seattle’s Benaroya Hall, symphony-goers turned to each other in amazement and exclaimed, “Wow! Who IS this guy?” It was the Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud, making his Northwest soloist bow in November of 2015 with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and its principal guest conductor, the Danish maestro Thomas Dausgaard. Many of us made a mental note to watch for more Kraggerud musical opportunities.

So what does the Halvorsen concerto sound like? It’s surprisingly lovely. The work has a typically 19th-century romantic idiom, and you might mistake it for music of the composer’s more famous countryman, Edvard Grieg (1843–1907)—especially when you hear the lyrical folkdance themes and the Hardanger fiddle effects (energetically rendered by Kraggerud). © 2017 The Norwegian American Read complete review

Harry van der Wal
Harry’s classical music corner, March 2017

Technically this is a very good performance. Kraggerud gets out what is possible, which is a lot, and there is no way to fault him. The orchestra follows faithfully and adequately, with quite some energy behind to back this violinist in the best possible way. Every movements holds so much introspection and has a deep meaningful purpose and all the beautiful filigree details Kraggerud brings gorgeously out of the score. It takes a bit of effort and close attention to find the center point of this violin concerto, but once you caught on the vibes, it works like a perpetuum mobile. It’s a fine work in every respect.

And the Nielsen violin concerto, well known, gets the same concentrated treatment. Kraggerud brings out the rough and gentle side of this concerto with an abundance of details and concentrated attention to secondary melody lines. It was breathless listening for me.

All in all this CD is worth acquiring. © 2017 Harry’s classical music corner Read complete review

Remy Franck
Pizzicato, March 2017

Johan Halvorsen’s long lost Violin Concerto as well as Nielsen’s Violin Concerto in spirited and alert performances. Svendsen’s charming Romance makes an attractive fill-up. © 2017 Pizzicato, March 2017

Kraggerud has clearly studied both works carefully and manages to imbue each with its own individual character while, at the same time, showing the rhythmic and harmonic similarities, along with the roughly comparable overall treatment of tonality, that make a comparison and contrast of the works attractive. © 2017 Read complete review

Martin Anderson
KlassiskMusikk, March 2017

…a real winner of a piece. It’s full of catching melodies—none of them really memorable but all of them attractive—and the orchestral writing is sure-footed and effective, as you would expect from Halvorsen. No doubt other violinists and orchestras will now make a bee-line for the work, but they’ll have a job coming close to this highly charged reading, that burns with conviction—Kraggerud’s playing is quite wonderful. © 2017 KlassiskMusikk

David Mellor
Classic FM, March 2017

It’s so easy to take Naxos for granted, but we shouldn’t. This is a typically compelling issue, where three Scandinavian pieces from 1881–1911 are beautifully played by the Scandinavian virtuoso Henning Kraggerud, attentively accompanied by the Malmö Symphony Orchestra under Bjarte Engeset.

The recordings, made in Malmö last September, are full bodied, and well balanced. This disc will give much pleasure at its inexpensive price, even though in truth, only the tiny Romance by Johan Svendsen is an undeniable masterpiece. A real little gem, with a great tune. © 2017 Classic FM Read complete review

Lisa Flynn
WFMT (Chicago), February 2017

Johan Halvorsen was one of Norway’s most talented violinists and an internationally renowned conductor and composer. With its beautifully lyrical themes and Norwegian character, his Violin Concerto was performed to great acclaim in 1909. It was considered lost, only to be rediscovered in 2015 in the archive of its original soloist. Nielsen’s Violin Concerto combines emotive power with a delightfully pastoral character. © 2017 WFMT (Chicago)

David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2017

Thought to have been irrevocably lost, Johan Halvorsen’s Violin Concerto was found in 2015 in the original soloist’s archive more than a hundred years previous. Somewhat happier in mood, it was written in the mould and stature of Sibelius’s concerto which had appeared five years earlier in 1903. At the time Halvorsen was at the epicentre of Norwegian music having started out as one of its leading violinists, he had become a prolific conductor, and in charge of opera and operetta performances at the National Theatre. The concerto formed part of his catalogue of over 170 works, and was given critical acclaim when first performed in 1909, but probably burned by the composer in his later years. In three movements, a honey-sweet central Andante is surrounded by the weighty and virtuoso opening movement and a cheerful finale. Let me make no exaggerated claims, but I often hear in the standard repertoire far less enjoyable music. Maybe it was just a little unkind to pair it with Carl Nielsen’s frequently heard concerto, a score that stylistically looked forward to the new world of twentieth century music, while Halvorsen looked back to the sunset of the Romantic era. Already in the Naxos catalogue we have a much recommended performance from Jonathan Carney and the Bournemouth Symphony made special among those available by the repose of his second movement. From the outset this new one, with Henning Kraggerud and the Malmö Symphony, is more dramatic and pungent in the framing sections of the opening movement, his famous Guarneri violin eloquent in the central adagio, while his faster tempi for the finale is to be preferred. The disc is completed by Svendsen’s Romance, a short work that comes straight from the world of musical soirées. Outstanding orchestral playing in admirable sound quality. © 2017 David’s Review Corner

Robert Benson, February 2017

The young Norwegian violinist/conductor Henning Kraggerud, who already has made a number of excellent recordings of Norwegian music, makes a strong case for all of this music, with perfect support from the Malmö Orchestra and conductor Bjarte Engeset. Excellent audio is another plus. © 2017 Read complete review

Records International, February 2017

First Commercial Recording… Anyone know what that means? Written for a young Canadian violinist in 1907–08, it was premiered by her in 1909 and considered lost until discovered in her archive in 2015, it’s not a big Romantic concerto but it is a very attractive one: 22 minutes in three movements with tasty elements of Hardanger fiddle music in all of them and the finale based on halling rhythms; plenty of opportunities for soloistic athleticism too. © 2017 Records International

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