NIESLEN Violin Concerto. Prelude & Theme with Variations
No one takes on the Nielsen Violin Concerto lightly. Its technical demands are not a whit less than those of the Sibelius Concerto, and its range of moods is wider – from neo-baroque monumentality at the opening, through a ‘chivalric’ Allegro to a frisky finale, by way of passages of dreamily poetic wonder. Artists of the order of Vengerov and Znaider certainly have all the required instrumental command. But others such as the Norwegian Vilde Frang and now the Swede Cecilia Zilliacus show a subtler appreciation of the idiom. Flexible yet sturdy, Zilliacus treats the concerto like a special friend whom she is proud and delighted to share with anyone in her orbit. Daniel Blendulf and his Helsingborgians are sympathetic partners, and the balance between soloist and orchestra is a fraction more realistic than with Frang and the Danish Radio (who, however, show an even keener appreciation for Nielsen’s quieter moments).
Couplings are clearly an issue. The two solo works from Nielsen’s last decade are among his most quirkily experimental creations, and you might well prefer them to yet another Tchaikovsky (Frang), Bruch (Znaider) or Sibelius concerto (Vengerov). You can find them elsewhere, of course, including from the passionate and dramatic, if in places rather rough Georgios Demertzis on BIS (with the two numbered sonatas for violin and piano). Zilliacus is more even-tempered, less eager to showcase her own considerable talents, yet also cleaner in execution, and for that reason more able to follow the music’s zig-zag imaginative course. Excellently recorded, and with an intelligent, sensitive essay from the violinist herself, this adds up to a thoroughly recommendable issue.