Nordic Violin Favorites – Romantic Pieces for Violin & Orchestra

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The pieces for violin and orchestra or string orchestra on this Naxos CD titled “Nordic Violin Favourites” all come from a narrow band of time and place. Each work was written in the first half of the 20th century and is by a composer of Nordic descent. It’s possible to loosely characterize the album, stylistically, as a whole; these are all romantic or post-romantic works, some touched by neo-classicism and others by impressionism. They are often based upon Swedish folk tunes and are all pleasingly tonal and very pleasant to listen to.

Perhaps it is because of the cold Nordic climate or from living in a place that rarely saw the sun, but most of the works on this program have a lyrically poignant atmosphere. The music here is very lovely, but darkly so. The works are by Atterberg, Stenhammar, Halvorsen, Sibelius, Sinding, Ole Bull and Carl Olsen. Atterberg’s Suite No. 3 for violin, viola and string orchestra, Op. 19 in the version here for two violins and strings is a world premiere recording.

The second half of the program contains a little more fireworks (well, sparklers anyway). One set of pieces that holds a sustained sense of cheer is the Six Humoresques for violin and orchestra Opp. 87 & 89 by Jean Sibelius – and they are charmers. The album concludes, appropriately I think, once again on the somber side with Christian Sinding’s Evening Mood, Op. 120.

Performances are by violinist Hanning Kraggerud and the Dalasinfoniettan conducted by Bjarte Engeset. Norwegian violinist Kraggerud has received the esteemed Spellemann CD award as well as the Grieg Prize, the Ole Bull Prize and the Sibelius Prize. Needless to say, he is right in the idiom here, and his playing is expressively beautiful, with a honeyed tone and extraordinary technique. It’s hard to imagine anyone not enjoying this.