Nielsen: Commotio; Seven Early Songs; Violin Sonata, Op. 35 (orch. Holten)

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Nielsen
LABELS: Danacord
WORKS: Commotio; Seven Early Songs; Violin Sonata, Op. 35 (orch. Holten)
PERFORMER: Henriette Bonde-Hansen (soprano), Bjarne Hansen (violin); Odense SO/Bo Holten
CATALOGUE NO: DACOCD 588
Nielsen’s songs possess an artless simplicity and purity of utterance that is quite special and which can easily be lost when they are adapted for a different medium. ‘Aebleblomst’ (Appleblossom) acquires a Mahlerian lushness that changes its character and so does ‘I seraillets have’ (In the Garden of the Seraglio). Nor is the scoring uniformly expert: ‘Irmelin Rose’ sounds quite crude. Unfortunately we are not so generously served in this repertoire: Solveig Kringelborn’s Virgin disc is the only version of ‘Appleblossom’, so that if Bo Holten’s disc serves to draw attention to the originals it will have performed a useful purpose.

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Some months ago the Grieg Cello Sonata emerged in an expert orchestral version by Joseph Horovitz and now it is the turn of Nielsen’s neglected G minor Violin Sonata, one of his strangest and most haunting utterances. Again the essential inwardness and muscularity is lost and, indeed, the opening of the finale is changed in character almost beyond recognition. Just as Weingartner’s orchestration of the Beethoven Hammerklavier robs the Sonata of its sense of grandeur and struggle, Bo Holten’s orchestration of Nielsen’s late masterpiece for the organ also serves to transform it. Nielsen’s thinking was keenly attuned to the medium in which it sought expression and instead of enhancing the grandeur and majesty of Commotio, Bo Holten’s orchestration serves to thicken its textures. Sorry, but I find the overall effect cumbersome and overblown. Robert Layton