SIBELIUS: Violin Concerto / SINDING: Legende / HALVORSEN: Norwegian Dances (Adrian Leaper/ Dong-Suk Kang/ Gunter Appenheimer/ Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.550329)
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Jean Sibelius (1865 - 1957)
Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47
Johan Svendsen (1840 - 1911)
Romance Op. 26
Johan Halvorsen (1864 - 1935)
Christian Sinding (1856 - 1941)
Legende Op. 46
Air norvegienne, Op. 7
The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius wasborn in 1865, the son of a doctor. The language and culture of his family wasSwedish, but Sibelius himself was to enter wholeheartedly into the world ofFinland, with its different linguistic and literary traditions. It was thisworld that he translated into musical terms in his remarkable seven symphoniesand in a series of tone poems that echo the ancient saga's. He was trained as amusician at first in Helsinki, then in Berlin and Vienna, and had earlyambitions as a violinist, at a time when the first professional orchestra inFinland was being established. Narrowly failing to win the position ofProfessor of Music at the University of Helsinki in 1896, he was awarded agovernment stipend for ten years, converted thereafter into a pension for life.
This was never enough to meet his needs, hardly tempered by a certain inheritedimprovidence. His father had had a gift for extravagance, and had left hisfamily bankrupt at the time of his early death. For the last 27 years of hislong life Sibelius virtually ceased to work as a composer. His position wasunassailable, but he felt himself out of tune with the contemporary world ofmusic, as it had developed.
Sibelius completed the first version ofhis Violin Concerto in 1903 and it was first performed in Helsinki withindifferent results. The concerto was revised and successfully performed inBerlin in 1905 by Karl Halir, under the direction of Richard Strauss. Thechoice of soloist, however, offended the violinist Willy Burmester, who hadoriginally been promised the work. The earlier version of the concerto wastechnically ambitious, and as a violinist Sibelius had needed no help with thelay-out of the solo part, although this presented technical difficulties thatwere beyond his own command. The later version made necessary revisions in thesolo part and it is in this definitive form that the work has become a standardpart of the solo repertoire.
The concerto opens with no lengthyorchestral introduction, the soloist making an almost immediate appearance,accompanied by a Scandinavian mist of muted strings. Although the movement isin the traditional tripartite form, the central development section is replacedby a cadenza-like passage for the violinist. The lyrical slow movement brings adeeply romantic melody, the soloist proceeding to weave his own fantasies abovethe orchestra. There follows a finale which the composer once described as adanse macabre, providing an opportunity for virtuoso display in a work in whichthe solo part is generally intertwined with the orchestral texture.
Johan Svendsen was born in Christiania,the modern Oslo, in 1840, the son of an army musician. He was trained as aviolinist, although his family background led to his enrolment as a clarinettistin an army band. Norway, ruled until 1814 by Denmark and under the continuedcultural influence of that country, was from 1814 under the domination ofSweden until the dissolution of the union in 1905 and the accession of a Danishprince as king. Svendsen's career coincided with that of Grieg, with whom hewas closely associated, as a composer, conductor and performer, in the growingromantic nationalism that shaped the course of Norwegian music in the lateryears of the nineteenth century. Like Grieg, he studied in Leipzig andthereafter spent considerable periods abroad, finally settling in Copenhagen,where he died in 1911. His lyrical Romance for violin and orchestra was writtenin 1881 at a time when he was living in Christiania. It marked the virtual endof his career as a composer. His later years were devoted primarily toconducting. Here he had won considerable distinction and in 1883 was appointedconductor of the Danish Royal Opera in Copenhagen, a position he occupied untilhis retirement in 1908.
The Norwegian violinist Johan Halvorsenwas born in 1864 and studied at the Conservatory in Stockholm. He became leaderof the Bergen Orchestra in 1887 and later moved to Leipzig to study with AdolphBrodsky, the violinist who gave the first performance of Tchaikovsky's ViolinConcerto, and was later to lead the Halle Orchestra and head the RoyalManchester College of Music. Halvorsen's career took him to Aberdeen as anorchestral leader and later to Berlin and to Liege for further study. He laterbecame conductor of the National Theatre in Christiania. His wife was a nieceof Grieg, a composer who exercised a strong influence over his compositions. Inaddition to incidental music for the theatre and a well known pair ofarrangements of Handel for violin and viola, Halvorsen wrote a number of worksof direct Norwegian inspiration, including the Norwegian Dances of 1915.
He also transcribed music he heard played on the traditional Norwegianhardanger fiddle, raw material used by Grieg.
Christian Sinding's reputation as acomposer has suffered unfairly through the excessive popularity of his pianopiece The Rustle of Spring. Born in 1856 at Kongsberg, he studied theviolin in Christiania, before moving, like a number of his Norwegiancompatriots, to Leipzig, where he turned from the violin to composition.
Influenced strongly by the neo-German school of Liszt and Wagner, heestablished himself in Norway as a composer only second to Grieg. He wrote hispopular Legende for violin and orchestra in 1900, one of a number of suchcompositions, in addition to his three Violin Concertos.
Dong-Suk Kang Hailed for his artistry,virtuosity and charismatic presence on stage, the Korean violinist Dong-SukKang enjoys an international career spanning performances with majororchestras, at festivals and in solo recital. He first came to the attention ofthe concertgoing public when he won both the San Francisco Symphony Competitionand the Merriweather Post Competition in Washington, D.C., and subsequentlywent on to win top prizes in several international competitions, among them theMontreal, the Carl Flesch in London and the Queen Elizabeth in Brussels.
Czechoslovak Radio Symphony Orchestra(Bratislava) The Czechoslovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava), the oldestsymphonic ensemble in Slovakia, was founded in 1929 at the instance of MilosRuppeldt and Oskar Nedbal, prominent personalities in the sphere of music. Theorchestra was first conducted by the Prague conductor Frantisek Dyk and in thecourse of the past fifty years of its existence has worked under the batons ofseveral prominent Czech and Slovak conductors. Ondrej Lenard was appointed itsconductor in 1970 and in 1977 its conductor-in-chief. The orchestra hasrecently given a number of successful concerts both at home and abroad, in Westand East Germany, Russia, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Spain, Italy, and GreatBritain.
Adrian Leaper studied conducting withMaurice Miles at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he was trainedalso as a horn-player, later appearing with the London Sinfonietta and theEnglish Chamber Orchestra, as well as serving eight years in the PhilharmoniaOrchestra, five of them as co-principal. At the same time he undertook avariety of conducting engagements with amateur and professional orchestras, inparticular with the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra, of which he was appointedMusical Director and Principal Conductor