Danish Violin Concertos, Vol. 1 = Works by Schall, Gade, Grøndahl, Frøhlich, Hartmann, Wellejus – Kai Laursen, violin /Aalborg S.O. / Jens Schrøder, Alf Sjøen / South Jutland S.O. /Carl von Garaguly [details below] – Danacord (2 mono CDs) DACOCD461-462, 56:41, 62:20 **** [Distr. by Albany]:
Kai Laursen (1924-1996) was one of the foremost Danish violinists of the second half of the last century. Having graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Music in 1943, he attended the class for soloists, and in 1944 won a place in the Royal Danish Orchestra, a post he held until 1951. That year he went to the Gothenburg Orchestra Society as leader, following that in 1965 with the leadership of the South Jutland SO until 1989. As well as playing in orchestras, he also performed as soloist in concertos, and had a long association with the pianist Ingmar Bergfelt in recital.
He will, I think, be remembered mostly for successfully persuading Danish Radio to take an interest in the Danish violin concerto and record and broadcast them. Over a number of years, and with a variety of orchestras, he revived no fewer than 28 concertos or concertante works, 26 of which have been issued on CD by Danacord, first in a 10-CD set, and now five double-CD issues.
Volume 1 contains a pair each of classical concertos, romantic concertos and more recently written ones. Claus Schall’s substantial Concerto No. 4 from 1790 certainly bears repeated listening; its writing is interesting, the soloist part more demanding than those written by Mozart. Johannes Frøhlich’s from 1826 is more compact and nods towards Beethoven without quite achieving that greatness. The stereo recording is good, and record collectors will quickly spot the name of Carl von Garaguly, that fine Hungarian conductor who made excellent recordings of Sibelius Symphonies 1 & 7 with the Dresden PO on Berlin Classics, and Nielsen’s Second Symphony, with the Tivoli Orchestra, once available on Turnabout and desperately needing reissuing.
Niels Gade’s Capriccio for violin and orchestra dates from 1878; he wrote just the one concerto for violin a little later, in 1881. The Capriccio, again conducted by Garaguly and recorded in stereo, is a light and happy work, with flashes of brilliance alternating with urbanity. Emil Hartmann, one of a series of Hartmann musicians from several generations, wrote his concerto at around the same time. This is a full-scale affair, with plenty of melodic invention and substantial cadenzas during the first and last movements. The mono recording reproduces good radio-quality sound.
The modern works are quite conservative, both composers dispensing with serial methods. Henning Wellejus did not care for “incomprehensible contemporary music”, and wrote music to have immediate appeal to a wide audience. After a grandly romantic first movement follows a slow passacaglia and finally a high-spirited finale. It seems to me he followed in the footsteps of some of Langgaard’s philosophy.
Launy Grøndahl is much better known as a conductor, especially through his recordings of Nielsen and Danish Romantic Symphonies all available on Danacord, and for his loyally putting Langgaard’s orchestral music before the Danish public. This lovely concerto is as rewarding as Korngold’s or Barber’s and deserves a wider audience. The recording here derives from an amateur source, recorded off-air, and is generally fine mono with patches of distortion – it didn’t spoil the performance, and one hopes that a modern recording will appear one of these days.
Although Danish Radio gave the go-ahead for this admirable project, listeners will realise that rehearsals sometimes had to be fitted in as and when. This gives the set an added feeling of pioneering music-making, but with such rarely performed music played in this winning manner, one can only thank Danacord for making these performances, in spite of their occasional lapses in performance and recording, available once again.
Claus Schall: Concerto No.4 for violin and orchestra
Niels W. Gade: Capriccio for violin and orchestra
Launy Grøndahl: Concerto for violin and orchestra
Johannes Frederick Frøhlich: Concertino for violin and orchestra
Emil Hartmann: Concerto for violin and orchestra
Henning Wellejus: Concerto for violin and orchestra
Kai Laursen – violin
Aalborg Symphony Orchestra / Jens Schrøder, Alf Sjøen (Schall)
South Jutland Symphony Orchestra / Carl von Garaguly
— Peter Joelson