The Strad Issue: January 2011
Description: A rewarding disc of contemporary Danish music for solo cello
Musicians: John Ehde (cello)
Composer: Nørgård, Fundal, Brødsgaard, T. Nielsen, Helweg
The Swedish-born cellist and conductor John Ehde has long been a champion of contemporary music, and his experience shows across the broad range of styles on this new disc of Danish music for solo cello. He strikes a winning balance between passion and control, rising magnificently to the works’ sometimes tough technical demands but always delivering truly musical readings. There’s no mention of what instrument he plays, but its gloriously rich yet focused sound, especially bright in higher registers, is a real asset here.
Per Nørgård is the best-known name on the disc, and he’s represented by two solo sonatas that Ehde performs with sincerity and due seriousness. The cellist is expert at picking apart the dense, multi-layered textures of the Second Sonata, and he slowly unfurls the Third Sonata’s expansive melodies with long, arching phrasing and noble intensity. Anders Brødsgaard’s Prelude revolves around a repeated D across the cello’s lowest three strings, and there’s a transparency to Ehde’s playing here that captures the listener’s imagination. Tage Nielsen’s rhapsodic Fantasy Piece allows the performer to explore a wide palette of sounds, from reedy, nasal tones high in the cello’s register to resonant pizzicatos. Recorded sound is warm and truthful, but it’s just a shame that the theatrical gestures of Kim Helweg’s Movements – spinning the cello around on its spike, swishing the bow through the air – don’t come across in a sound-only recording.