Nielsen, C Sonata for Violin and Piano Nos 1 & 2
Nielsen’s violin music has had few champions in modern times other than Lydia Mordkovich, whose full-blooded accounts of the two Sonatas I welcomed as an ‘interim version’ in 1989. Since then Danacord has issued its three-disc set of historical recordings of Nielsen chamber music, indispensable to serious collectors because of Emil Telmányi’s close association with the composer. And the same coupling as the new BIS disc was briefly available in serviceable performances on the Danish Kontrapunkt label (as was the teenage Nielsen’s G minor Violin Sonata).
Demertzis and Asteriadou need fear none of those comparisons. Their account of the loveable if loose-limbed and very Brahms-indebted A major Sonata superbly captures the qualities an early reviewer identified: ‘the forceful work, strident in temperament, but strong in its smile’. And while they could perhaps have found darker colours in the Second Sonata (a troubled and exploratory work that breaks new stylistic ground after the Third Symphony), they still make a compelling case for its restless twists and turns. I’m not sure any violinist will ever convince me that the improvisatory post-Fifth Symphony Prelude and Theme with Variations or the post-Sixth Symphony Preludio e Presto are the best of Nielsen, but Demertzis is certainly alive to their wit and imagination as well as on top of their considerable virtuoso demands.
The solo works are recorded, not inappropriately, in a church acoustic, and the Sonatas in Stockholm’s former Academy of Music, where the piano may be slightly too forwardly placed for some tastes (but not for mine). There is an excellent booklet note from Knud Ketting.