Nielsen: The Complete Concertos

"Niels Thomsen’s powerfully intense account of the late Clarinet Concerto is completely gripping. Michael Schøwandt gives sensitive and imaginative support, both here and in the two companion works. Toke Lund Christiansen is hardly less successful in the Flute Concerto. Kim Sjøgren and Schønwandt give a penetrating and thoughtful account of the Violin Concerto: there is real depth here, thanks in no small measure to Schønwandt. The recording is first class." --The Penguin Guide - 1000 Greatest Classical Recordings 2011-12

Kim Sjøgren's account of the Violin Concerto has a great deal going for it: he may not have the lyrical purity and aristocratic finesse of ChoLiang Lin (CBS—a 1989 GRAMOPHONE Awardwinner), nor his effortless virtuosity but he plays with great understanding and intensity. Moreover he has the advantage of an infinitely more sympathetic and understanding orchestral support. Right from the beginning and throughout the work—I should add the whole record—Michael Schønwandt shows an innate feeling for this music and its atmosphere, and is far more responsive to its natural flow than Lin's conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen. The perspective between soloist and orchestra is well-judged (Sjøgren is never larger than life) and so, for the most part, is the internal balance: only at one point a little way into the finale did I feel the woodwind was a bit too prominent. If Sjngren does not produce quite as noble a sound as Lin, the performance as a whole can hold its head high alongside it.

In the Flute Concerto Toke Lund Christiansen gives a very fine account of himself, full of spirit and intelligence. In some respects he is not quite the equal of the remarkable Patrick Gallois with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and Myung-Whun Chung (BIS/Conifer) who has great expressive intensity and conveys the "lightness of spirit and awareness of pain" you find in this concerto to striking effect. All the same, this fine Danish player, a pupil of Poul Birkelund, produces good sound and has no want of brilliance, authority or character. Last but emphatically not least, Niels Thomsen's account of the Clarinet Concerto is one of the very finest I have ever heard, and I do not forget the masterly performance by Kjell-Inge Stevensson with Blomstedt (EM!, 10/75—nla) or 011e Schill's tine Gothenburg version (BIS) listed above. There is no attempt to beautify the score or to overstate it: every dynamic nuance and expressive marking is observed by both soloist and conductor, and the risks that are taken come off. Niels Thomsen plays as if his very being is at stake and Michael Schønwandt secures playing of great imaginative intensity from the Danish Radio orchestra.

In short a very impressive recording and well worth acquiring, even if you have some of the rivals listed above. R. L. --Gramophone, April 1991

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