Grieg • Grainger • Nielsen

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Grieg; Grainger; Nielsen
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Grieg: Cello Sonata; Grainger: La Scandinavie (Scandinavian Suite); Nielsen: Saenk kun dit hoved, du blomst (Just bow your head, oh flower), Op. 21 No. 4
PERFORMER: Andreas Brantelid (cello), Christian Ihle Hadland (piano), Lars Bjørnkjaer (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: BIS-2120 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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These two gifted Scandinavians, cellist Andreas Brantelid and pianist Christian Ihle Hadland, have created a genuinely fresh programme for Grieg’s Cello Sonata, delivering it with buoyant spirit and imaginative freedom. Brantelid plays one of the great Strad cellos, the ‘Boni, Hegar’, which yields sumptuously to his impulsive – occasionally reckless – big-scale vision. Hadland, more familiar as a Radio 3 New Generation artist, matches him in fantasy, subtlety and sheer emotional engagement.

A tremendous, strongly-etched performance of the Sonata by Truls Mørk and Jean-Yves Thibaudet (Virgin) has long been my ideal; Brantelid’s feverish energy, tonal and textural range add something new. The Andante has a glistening innocence, while the sense of rough, spontaneous dance in the finale pulls the music closer to its roots. That feisty quality ignites the Scandinavian Suite of Grieg’s champion Percy Grainger, whose unapologetic respect for folk music infuses this timeless work, and to which both bring a lovely improvisatory humour.

Grieg’s darkling Intermezzo (1866) and an intensely Romantic Andante con moto from an incomplete piano trio were new to me. A slightly over-resonant recording makes the piano’s bass occasionally murky. But Nielsen’s poignant Op. 21 song ‘Just bow your head, oh flower’ is an inspired encore. Blink and you could be sitting in a sunny wooden parlour in Funen, Denmark.

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Helen Wallace