The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Annar Follesø (violin) Norwegian Radio Orchestra/Ole Kristian Ruud
Composer: Bull

Ole Bull aimed to out-Paganini Paganini, and in his lifetime he pretty much succeeded, as the plaudits of Schumann and Joachim in the comprehensive notes for this CD suggest. Certainly the combination of extravagant, look-what-I-can-do virtuosity and supple lyricism make similar demands on a soloist. If you can’t play it brilliantly, leave it alone. Annar Follesø, lean and bright of tone, is a worthy protagonist in these colourful dramas. In the outer movements of the A minor Concerto, where Bull’s trademark multiple-stoppings are the default, there is little he can do sometimes beyond staying in there, which he does admirably.

After the delightful little Herdgirl’s Sunday at the opening, the music gains in character from one piece to the next, and so does Follesø. He shows an elfin agility in the jolly shenanigans of the Concerto fantastico finale, and brings character to the Spanish smörgasbord of the Verbena de San Juan. Follesø has a captivating way with the bel canto melodies of the concertos, but it is in the Norwegian works that he, and indeed Bull, show real individual character. The final piece, A Mountain Vision, a patriotic sequence of sometimes melancholy song and dance, is beautifully done. The recorded sound is detailed and generous.

Tim Homfray