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Carl Nielsen: Chamber Works for Violin and Strings

Sonata No. 1 in G major for violin and piano; Duetto No. 1 in A major for two violins; Romance in D major for violin and piano; Quartetto No. 1 in D minor; Four Quartet Movements; Two Quartet movements; Romance Op. 2

Georgios Demertzis, violin; Maria Asteriadou, piano; New Hellenic Quartet



If the Nielsen you know is the composer of the Inextinguishable and the Wind Quintet, prepare for a surprise. Most of this disc sounds more like Nielsen's compatriot, the underrated Niels Gade, since all the pieces were written before Nielsen was 25. But with the composer's melodic gift and feel for textures (he was himself a violinist), this is a ravishing CD to listen to. Indeed, the programme notes, informing us that the disc charts the composer's journey from student to independent originality, is too apologetic an apologia . Yes, these pieces sound like Mozart or Mendelssohn Plus, but the ‘plus' is quite enough to give a sense of individuality and Northern romanticism.


The opening sonata is a case in point; the three movements respectively recall Mozart's K387 quartet, the middle movement of the piano sonata K545 and the finale of Beethoven's Violin Sonata Op 30 No 3. Yet it is thoroughly agreeable, and certainly a step more ambitious than the Sibelius piano music recently reviewed. Sibelius, also a lover of the violin, was by contrast therefore writing against his inclinations. Demertzis is a particularly sweet-toned interpreter; he and the able Asteriadou are already known for their recording of Nielsen's later violin /piano works.


The two quartets (the second is a conjectured reconstruction) are substantial works in the vein of Mendelssohn or Schumann, and receive extremely lively, precise renderings from the New Hellenics. There is no shortage of intensity either- witness the slow movement of the reconstructed quartet.


Yes – this disc makes good its claim to shed new light on Nielsen. But it does not need this musicological prop. Just as Beethoven's Op 1 trios or Op 18 quartets stand by themselves, so do these works. Highly recommended, no reservations.


Ying Chang