Henning Kraggerud performs violin concertos by Halvorsen, Nielsen & Svendsen

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COMPOSERS: Halvorsen,Nielsen,Svendsen
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Halvorsen • Nielsen • Svendsen
WORKS: Halvorsen: Violin Concerto; Nielsen: Violin Concerto; Svendsen: Romance
PERFORMER: Henning Kraggerud (violin); Malmö Symphony Orchestra/Bjarte Engeset
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573738

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The Halvorsen Violin Concerto from 1908 is the rarity here – thought to have been destroyed, it surfaced only in 2015. It has the all hallmarks of a violinist-composer’s work: arresting opening cadenzas, virtuoso athletics and the opportunity to draw sweetly melodic lines. Henning Kraggerud plays with a sense of lithe buoyancy in the faster music, although his double stops are not always infallible. But he has a wide tonal palette, and the languorous slow movement, with its echoes of Bruch, is emotionally charged. On the other side, there’s the chirpiness of the folk-inflected finale, with fetching rubato, and the whole concerto makes for an engaging listen for 20 minutes or so.

Comparatively rare in live performance, the Nielsen has done well on CD. It’s a much more individual and striking work, with another violinist-composer putting the soloist through his paces. Here, Kraggerud is not quite as comfortable in the wide-ranging pyrotechnics, and the orchestra and conductor sometimes have a problem keeping up with him at speed in the first movement. There is charm in the slow movement though, yet the quirky rondo finale never seems quite certain of its direction. A better option in this work would be Vilde Frang (on Warner), imaginative and secure.

The Svendsen Romance is a good bonne bouche to end the CD – the slightest piece here, its gently evocative performance is also the most consistent.

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Martin Cotton