C Arnold

ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Piano Sonatas Nos 5, 11, 12 & 26
PERFORMER: Jonathan Biss


Although affectionately dubbed ‘the father of Norwegian music’, Carl Arnold was German. Born three years after the death of Mozart, he pursued in his youth the life of an itinerant piano virtuoso. He cultivated particularly cordial ‘ententes’ with St Petersburg and Poland, yet it was not until 1848 that he finally made landfall in Norway. Any ‘paternity’ claims are surely founded on the way in which he encouraged music as a profession in Norway, since his own music retained its German identity.

Though, as Torleif Torgersen’s fascinating premiere recordings disclose, he also had an agreeable way of processing whatever he heard at the time, from Italian bel canto to Polish folk music. The Rondeau on a Norwegian Folk Tune, which almost foreshadows Grieg, is strategically placed at the disc’s beginning. As in the case of the Variations and Sonatas that follow, it displays a well-formed voice and music that is written to play to the strengths of a pianist who is out to cut a dash.

Performing on a gutsy fortepiano constructed during Arnold’s lifetime, Torleif Torgersen sounds eminently dashing. He coaxes charm and constrained turbulence with equal aplomb, nails the music’s classical underpinning without short-changing its Romantic fantasy, and powerfully lives in the moment without ever losing sight of the overall design. In Torgersen, Arnold has a formidable champion.


Paul Riley