A Tribute to Erling Bloendal Bengtsson, Vol. 3 = KABALEVSKY: Cello Concerto No. 1, Op. 49; MENDELSSOHN: Cello Sonata No. 2 in D Major, Op. 58; JOLIVET: Suite en concert pour violoncello – Erling Bloendal Bengtsson, cello/ Anker Blyme, piano/ Iceland Sym. Orch. / Jean-Pierre Jacquillat – Danacord DACOCD 740, 58:39 [Distr. by Albany] ****:  

We have another installment of the Danacord series devoted to the Danish cello virtuoso Erling Bloendal Bengtsson (1932-2013), here embracing recordings 1970-1980.  The program begins with the facile, often elegantly charming, concerto from Dmitri Kabalevsky, his 1949 Cello Concerto No. 1 in G Minor (rec. 5 October 1973), the middle composition of a trilogy; the two others devoted to the piano and the violin. Sviatoslav Knushevitzky gave the world premiere. The martial first movement permits Bengtsson to soar into his upper register, including a brief cadenza in bravura octaves and double stops. The Largo takes a Russian folk melody and places it as a luxurious song in B Major. Muted strings and arioso brass accompany Bengtsson in the course of this lovely idyll. The cadenza here reverses the modality into the minor. The Allegretto finale varies a Russian tune with a mixture of aggression and lyricism, including an early entry by the clarinet. The four-square melody might have inspired Tchaikovsky just as easily. The music becomes jaunty and playful as well as ardently lyrical, and the cello part demands more of Bengtsson’s wizard virtuosity than had the prior two movements. Conductor Jean-Pierre Jacquillat (1935-1986) had become the Chief Conductor of the Icelandic Symphony in 1967.  A former assistant of Charles Munch, Jacquillat’s promising career ended in a fatal car accident.

Cellist Bengtsson first collaborated with pianist Anker Blyme in the late 1950s. Few cello sonatas exert such a natural fluency for the instrument as Mendelssohn’s 1842 Second Sonata. The performance (11 October 1980) clearly testifies to the musical affinity of the two principals. The brilliant keyboard flourishes sail under a theme in the first movement that bears a family kinship with the Italian Symphony. Everything about the Allegretto scherzando resonates with the spirit of Mendelssohn’s music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is contemporaneous with the Sonata. The lyrical melody for the cello in the middle section may remind auditors that it was conceived for a Stradivarius instrument owned by Count Mateusz Wielhorski, a patron of the arts and accomplished amateur cellist.  Pianist Blyme strums open the expressive Adagio, to be answered by richly intoned figures by Bengtsson.  More than one commentator notes the relationship of the melody to Bach’s Es is vollbracht from the St. John Passion. The brilliant balance of forces concludes the piece Molto allegro e vivace, a frothy combination of exuberance and romantic reverie.

The Parisian composer Andre Jolivet (1905-1974) conceived his unaccompanied Suite en concert in 1965. In five movements, it opens with a relatively lyrical but harmonically daring Improvisation in the manner of a slow Bach prelude. The ensuing Ballade projects a meditative character, playing arco effects against a series of percussive, harmonics, and buzzing sequences. Air conveys a deeply personal affect, providing the emotional center of the piece. Bengtsson reverses the polarity in the Serenade, having become capricious and playfully audacious in a manner suggestive less of Bartok than of Stravinsky. The final movement, Sonate, presents a rather stern, austere sense of form and polyphonic sonority, again technically demanding but allowing Bengtsson his full range of emotional sympathies to shine through.

—Gary Lemco