The Strad Issue: January 2009
Musicians: Christina Šstrand (violin) Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra/John StorgŠrds
Composer: Gade, Lange-Müller, Langgaard
The rather generic nature of these three Danish violin concertos helps to remind us just how individual Carl Nielsen was as a composer in the context of his nation’s music and beyond. Yet there’s plenty to enjoy here: Niels Gade’s 1880 Concerto, written for Joachim two years after the Brahms, is effusive in melody, even if none of it is particularly memorable; P.E. Lange-Müller’s more Grieg-imbued work from 1902 has a richer palette and is capped by a delightfully dancing finale; and Rued Langgaard’s Concerto, though sounding profoundly anachronistic for a work written in 1944, has Straussian warmth and a fresh touch in the prominence given to orchestral piano.
The soloist, Christina Åstrand, has been leader of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra for 13 years, although she is still in her mid-30s. Once one gets used to her slightly pinched tone, it becomes easy to warm to the sheer charisma she brings to her performances of these three works. The Gade, in particular, is played with the kind of commitment and lithe ease more often reserved for the greats of the repertoire. She’s particularly well-balanced with the orchestra, and although the recording could perhaps do with a little more atmosphere it conveys the dynamic extremes realistically.