Nordic Spring

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NORDIC SPRING Terje Tønnesen (vn, cond); Lars Anders Tomter (va); Norwegian CO SIMAX 1264 (61:46)

GRIEG Holberg Suite. ATTERBERG Suite for Violin, Viola, and String Orchestra. SVENDSEN Romance. NIELSEN Little Suite. BRAEIN Serenade for Viola and Orchestra. SIBELIUS Valse triste

Nordic spring? I don’t know where the “spring” comes from (not one work on the disc has anything to do with spring), but Nordic this program certainly is. All four countries are represented, in six works from as many composers, in repertory ranging from the thrice-familiar to the virtually unknown, at least outside of their countries of origin.

On the surface, the repertory may appear a bit bland, but the playing is so fresh and vibrant, the textures so clear, the sound so rich and warm, that even a C-Major scale from the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra would be worth listening to. The fullness of sound they achieve comes partly from favoring the number of instruments at the lower end of the range (11 cellos and basses to 14 violins and 6 violas) and partly from the engineering, which provides an exceptionally spacious resonance to the sound. The dynamic range is huge, from breathless whispers to full-throated fortissimo s, though with never a forced or raspy or unpleasant sound of any kind. Pianissimo entrances float in from another world, as if carried on the back of a zephyr. But most of all, every phrase sings, has direction and meaning. This is music-making at its most refined.

The program springs to life (ah! maybe that’s where “spring” comes in) with the first notes of Grieg’s Holberg Suite played with crystalline clarity, rhythmic precision, zest, and boundless energy. The real find here for me is Atterberg’s Suite for Violin, Viola, and String Orchestra, a miniature, three-movement gem of sweet and gentle melancholy. The Norwegian Edvard Braein’s four-minute Serenade features the somber, veiled voice of the viola in a melodious context with an engaging waltz as its central episode. Sibelius’s Valse triste is given an elegant, tasteful performance that will leave you wondering why the piece could ever be called hackneyed. Svendsen’s Romance and Nielsen’s little-known Little Suite round out the hour-long program.

FANFARE: Robert Markow

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: PSC1264

  • UPC: 7033662012640

  • Label: Simax Classics

  • Composer: Carl Nielsen, Edvard Brain, Edvard Grieg, Jean Sibelius, Johan Svendsen, Kurt Atterberg

  • Conductor: Norwegian Chamber Orchest, Terje Tonnesen

  • Performer: Lars Anders Tomter, Terje Tonnesen