Niels Ullner

Niels Viggo Bentzon: Works for Cello and Piano

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The strongest features of Niels Viggo Bentzon's music are its spontaneity and wit, and these qualities run through his highly diverse body of work. A prolific composer who was guided more by intuition than by trends or schools, Bentzon occasionally dabbled in experimentation. However, his oeuvre largely reflects a neo-Classical style, essentially tonal and formally traditional, but spiced here and there with avant-garde techniques and sharp dissonances. Bentzon's unpredictability and humor, though, save his music from academic dryness, and this is nowhere more apparent than in his Variations on "The Volga Boatmen" for solo cello, Op. 354 (1977), a clever dissection of the melody that abounds with invention and irony. The Sonata No. 3 for cello and piano, Op. 268 (1971), seems the most serious essay on the program, yet there is something quirky about the cello's meandering part, and the piece's unexpected turns are quite amusing. The relatively early Sonata for cello and piano, Op. 43 (1947), breathes with an improvisational spirit, and though it seems inspired by Hindemith and Bartók, it is relaxed in feeling and follows no rules but Bentzon's flights of fancy. Cellist Niels Ullner and pianist Rosalind Bevan are lively and appealing in these performances, and DaCapo provides fine sound.

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