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Nielsen • Sibelius: Violin Concertos

Johan Dalene (violin); Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Stockholm/John Storgårds (BIS)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Nielsen • Sibelius
Violin Concertos
Johan Dalene (violin); Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Stockholm/John Storgårds
BIS BIS-2620 (CD/SACD)   73:23 mins


These two great Nordic violin concertos are coupled almost as frequently as Mendelssohn and Bruch these days. They certainly make a good foil for each other: the Sibelius darkly atmospheric, with discernible roots in private pain, the Nielsen playful, quirkily brilliant, but not without its own moments of deeper reflection.

The contrast works particularly well in this new studio pairing. Johan Dalene has a strong command of long evolving lines – crucial in both composers – but he balances that with a fine feeling for ‘speaking’ phrasing and articulation. The music seems to be addressing us personally, often on a very intimate level indeed. I haven’t heard many performances that come so close in this respect to the classic Ginette Neveu recording (a firm personal favourite) in the slow movement of the Sibelius. The expression can certainly be full-toned and red-blooded, but what I like most of all are his pianissimos: how can tone that’s so delicate, fragile almost, also be so full of feeling? Of course, Dalene is up against stiff competition in the Sibelius, but what I think gives his Nielsen the slight edge is the way he and John Storgårds bring out the element of conversation between soloist and orchestra. The enchanting dialogue that’s such a key ingredient in Nielsen’s later Wind Quintet is anticipated delightfully here. Yes, the Nielsen is a great concerto, but how many of the other ‘great’ violin concertos can be such fun, whilst at other times be so touching? Lovely recordings too. Strongly recommended.

Stephen Johnson

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