Lars Bjørnkjær

Johan Svendsen, Lange-Müller: Violin Concertos

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Appreciation for the compositions from Scandinavian countries seems to be somewhat of an uphill battle. Apart from the works of Grieg and Nielsen, most other composers from this area of the globe are overlooked. This album of violin concertos by Norwegian composers Johan Svendsen and Peter Lange-Müller seeks to break this injustice. Svendsen's concerto makes clear that the composer was himself a violinist; the solo part is very idiomatically written, favoring lyricism over showiness. The orchestral accompaniment is sometimes overbearing and gets in the way of the solo violin's much more interesting and inspired contribution. By contrast, Lange-Müller's concerto is much more virtuosic for the solo violin, but never appearing to be difficult just for the sake of being difficult. The solo violin duties are ably handled by Lars Bjørnkjær, whose sweet but intense sound rises above even the most densely scored moments in the Svendsen concerto. Listeners will at once notice Bjørnkjær's passion for the music he is playing, truly giving every note importance and vibrancy as he tries to resurrect these little known works. He is joined by the Århus Symphony Orchestra under Giordano Bellincampi. While the orchestra generally performs sufficiently, there are moments (as in the opening of the Svendsen concerto) where intonation in the wind section is troublingly problematic. Still Bjørnkjær's performance more than makes up for these shortcomings, and listeners interested in hearing new works will still find this album a welcome addition to their collection.

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