Nielsen Commotio; 7 Early Songs; Violin Sonata
Orchestral transcriptions of largescale organ works can be a mixed blessing. But Bo Holten’s of Nielsen’s late masterpiece Commotio is a conspicuous success. Among its strongest features‚ as Daniel Grimley’s astute essay points out‚ are Holten’s bold deployment of the timpani in the opening fantasialike flourishes and his allotting of the first fugal exposition to a trio of bassoons – a delightfully pastoralindolent effect‚ reminiscent of the ‘Phlegmatic Temperament’ from Nielsen’s Second Symphony. In fact the entire project has obviously been carried out with such love‚ understanding and attention to detail that it stands as a viable alternative way of hearing the work. The orchestra is technically stretched in places‚ but the conviction of Holten’s direction steers them through.
With the seven early songs‚ judiciously selected from Nielsen’s Holstein and Jacobsen settings‚ Holten has produced an orchestral cycle that makes an attractive vehicle for a soprano with the fresh tonal qualities of Maria BondeHansen. Here again everything is so naturally laid out for the orchestra that this could have been passed off as Nielsen’s own work without anyone but a specialist being any the wiser.
At first glance the Second Violin Sonata might seem a less likely candidate for orchestral treatment‚ given the spindliness and quirkiness of so much of the writing. This is a work that shows Nielsen refusing to rest on the laurels of his Sinfonia espansiva and breaking the new ground that will soon provide the foundations for The Inextinguishable. Once again Holten’s work is far more than merely resourceful; it is lit up by deep affection for and understanding of the idiom‚ making for a quirky experience‚ but scarcely more so than the original. Soloist and orchestra play with sensitivity dedication under Holten’s guidance.