Nielsen, Grieg, Rangstršm & Sibelius

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COMPOSERS: Grieg,Nielsen,Rangström & Sibelius
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Nordic Songs
WORKS: Säv, säv, susa; Jeg elsker dig; Bön till natten
PERFORMER: Barbara Hendricks (soprano), Roland Pöntinen (piano)
Since the mid-Seventies, Barbara Hendricks has been a regular visitor to the Scandinavian countries (she has a Swedish husband) and has developed a special affinity for the romans repertoire (the equivalent of the German Lieder or the French mélodie). On this disc she offers some of the most popular, ranging from such perennial favourites as Grieg’s ‘En svane’ and ‘Jeg elsker dig’ to the more celebrated of the Sibelius songs such as ‘Säv, säv, susa’ (Sigh, sedges, sigh) and ‘Svarta rosor’ (Black roses). She seems equally at home in the artless simplicity of Nielsen’s Strophic Songs, Op. 21, or the familiar Rangström settings of Bo Bergman. Rangström strikes me as the most eloquent of the Swedish romans composers, finer even than Stenhammar, though only a few of his 200 have received any attention on CD. ‘Bön till natten’ (Prayer to the night) has a directness of appeal and dignity that Hendricks conveys with sympathy and authority. At times, as in Grieg’s ‘Die verschwiegene Nachtigall’ or Rangström’s ‘Vingar i natten’ (Wings in the night) Anne Sofie von Otter (DG) distils the more haunting atmosphere, but for the most part these are poetic readings, given with dedication and artistry. Roland Pöntinen is supportive and imaginative throughout. Robert Layton