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Sinding: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2
Sinding: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2
Price: £14.51

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent performances of two unjustly neglected symphonies., 13 Jun. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I hope you don't mind if I quote from my review of the Warner/Apex coupling of these two symphonies. I have changed the timings, of course:

"Sinding's First Symphony cost its composer a great deal of effort. Its gestation lasted most of the 1880s and it did not reach its final form until 1892. Although it is stylistically inconsistent and a little uneven, it is well worth getting to know. Ultimately, I thought it less rewarding than the second and third symphonies but it is far more immediately attractive and approachable than they are largely because its structures are clearer. It is also more conventional tonally.

The 11 minute first movement states its main theme at once. The second subject arrives in the expected key (F major) but the development, as well as making use of both main themes, achieves impetus by employing an insistent dotted note rhythm taken from the exposition's transitional material. At 5 mins 50 secs the tonic is re-established and the recapitulation proceeds regularly until, at 8 mins 30 secs and after the return of the second subject, a new descending march-like theme is introduced. This is to reappear in the finale. The coda is built on the transitional material and a final reference to the main theme. Altogether, this is a fine, notably well sustained movement.

The 11 minute slow movement is practically monothematic, the central section of its ternary structure, beginning at 4 mins 17 secs, being built on an idea closely related to the main theme. (It is also related to the first movement's second subject; thematic iterrelationships are characteristic of Sinding's music and there are many other examples in this symphony.) The passionate writing for massed strings in this movement will remind you of Tchaikovsky while the luxuriant music for solo strings in the central section shows the influence of Strauss. A pair of duetting bassoons ushers in the return of the opening music, its theme now transferred to the whole orchestra. The woodwind provide a brief coda.

The 8 minute scherzo is an immediately attractive movement. Its opening section soon quotes the main theme of the first movement and the main subsidiary idea is a strongly syncopated tune. In the way it repeats a simple fragment of melody, later extended, while the background changes, the central trio section will again remind you of the Russian Romantics.

After this, the 10 minute finale is a little disappointing, its main idea, clearly related to the symphony's opening theme, being of little interest in itself although it generates much of the ensuing music. The main second subject soon refers (at 2 mins 15 secs and later) to the march-like theme from the first movement. A clearly defined development heralds the recapitulation at 5 mins 54 secs. The symphony comes to a blazing conclusion as the brass declaim a major mode variant of the movement's main theme.

The Second Symphony, which dates from 1904, is more difficult to get to grips with since it is far more fluidly composed. Structural divisions are less clear. There is, for instance, no material which can clearly be labelled transitional. The texture is heavily contrapuntal and the orchestration thick. There are only three movements. The 11 1/2 minute first movement opens with the symphony's motto theme, an almost Brucknerian idea. This is heard in various guises, including a quick variant, until the lower strings announce the fine second theme. It is soon repeated by Sinding's favourite woodwind instrument, the clarinet. The development, beginning at 4 mins 19 secs, is largely concerned with the motto theme. The recapitulation arrives at 6 mins 59 secs. As in the slow movement of the First Symphony, the restatement of the second subject is given to the whole orchestra at 8 mins 57 secs. This is a most impressive passage. The coda is built on the motto theme. A particular feature of this movement is the active writing for the horns, very much in the manner of Stenhammar's First Symphony.

The lovely 8 1/2 minute slow movement is an arch structure. There is very little development in this movement, the composer remaining content to repeat his ideas in ever more extravagant orchestrations. As usual with Sinding (and Scandinavian composers in general) the main theme is stated at once. It may remind you of Grieg. Before long the strings announce the second melody and, after a passionate restatement, an idea closely related to it is heard on the clarinet at 2 mins 40 sec. The string tune returns on the horns at 4 mins 45 secs and the opening melody returns on the strings at 6 mins 36 secs. The coda is built on the clarinet tune.

The 11 minute finale is a fairly straightforward rondo. The main theme is a march tune, not much like a hymn whatever the booklet notes say (certainly my congregation would have trouble with the syncopations). It is a catchy tune which will grow on you. A Russian influence is apparent here, Glazunov in particular. There are two lyrical episodes, the more important of which is the first. Gradually, as the second episode progresses, Sinding begins to reintroduce ideas from earlier in the symphony. The first of these, at 7 mins 11 secs, is a reference to the clarinet tune form the slow movement. (You'd do well to spot this.) Gradually the motto theme emerges as do further references to the slow movement and then, at 9 mins 31 secs, the music of the march tune is cleverly combined with a speeded up version of the melody from the first episode. At 10 mins 2 secs a lively, diatonic version of the march tune minus its syncopations brings the symphony to a joyous conclusion though not before a final statement of the motto theme.

Sinding's symphonies have always had a bad press, not helped by the fact that the composer, as an old man suffering from dementia, joined the Norwegian Nazi party, but they have a lot to offer if you are prepared to make the effort. The Third is, I would say, the best of them but it is not an easy listen. The First is much easier to grasp but the Second is a more characteristic work. These symphonies are very rarely played in concert and the need for repeated listening makes them ideal gramophone material."

I thought the CPO disc of the third and fourth symphonies definitely superior to the one on Warner/Apex conducted by Ari Rasilainen but there is very little to choose between the two recordings of the first and second. In the First Symphony, Rasilainen takes a more lyrical view of the music. I preferred his slightly faster and more flowing account of the slow movement and he also disguises more effectively the squareness of the writing in the finale. On the other hand, Dausgaard's more purposeful way with the first movement of the Second Symphony is preferable and, this time, the slow movement flows more smoothly in his hands. Both recordings are very good, the Warner/ Apex having a little more ambience while the CPO is closer and more detailed. Both discs are highly recommendable, then.


Symphonies 1 And 2 (Rasilainen, Norwegian Radio Orchestra)
Symphonies 1 And 2 (Rasilainen, Norwegian Radio Orchestra)
Price: £15.02

5.0 out of 5 stars The First Symphony is the more approachable work but the Second is more characteristic and may, ultimately, be more rewarding., 7 Jun. 2014
Sinding's First Symphony cost its composer a great deal of effort. Its gestation lasted most of the 1880s and it did not reach its final form until 1892. Although it is stylistically inconsistent and a little uneven, it is well worth getting to know. Ultimately, I thought it less rewarding than the second and third symphonies but it is far more immediately attractive and approachable than they are largely because its structures are clearer. It is also more conventional tonally.

The 11 minute first movement states its main theme at once. The second subject arrives in the expected key (F major) but the development, as well as making use of both main themes, achieves impetus by employing an insistent dotted note rhythm taken from the exposition's transitional material. At 5 mins 48 secs the tonic is re-established and the recapitulation proceeds regularly until, at 8 mins 27 secs and after the return of the second subject, a new descending march-like theme is introduced. This is to reappear in the finale. The coda is built on the transitional material and a final reference to the main theme. Altogether, this is a fine, notably well sustained movement.

The 10 minute slow movement is practically monothematic, the central section of its ternary structure, beginning at 3 mins 39 secs, being built on an idea closely related to the main theme. (It is also related to the first movement's second subject; thematic iterrelationships are characteristic of Sinding's music and there are many other examples in this symphony.) The passionate writing for massed strings in this movement will remind you of Tchaikovsky while the luxuriant music for solo strings in the central section shows the influence of Strauss. A pair of duetting bassoons ushers in the return of the opening music, its theme now transferred to the whole orchestra. The woodwind provide a brief coda.

The 8 minute scherzo is an immediately attractive movement. Its opening section soon quotes the main theme of the first movement and the main subsidiary idea is a strongly syncopated tune. In the way it repeats a simple fragment of melody, later extended, while the background changes, the central trio section will again remind you of the Russian Romantics.

After this, the 9 minute finale is a little disappointing, its main idea, clearly related to the symphony's opening theme, being of little interest in itself although it generates much of the ensuing music. The main second subject soon refers (at 1 min 53 secs and later) to the march-like theme from the first movement. A clearly defined development heralds the recapitulation at 5 mins 3 secs. The symphony comes to a blazing conclusion as the brass declaim a major mode variant of the movement's main theme.

The Second Symphony, which dates from 1904, is more difficult to get to grips with since it is far more fluidly composed. Structural divisions are less clear. There is, for instance, no material which can clearly be labelled transitional. The texture is heavily contrapuntal and the orchestration thick. There are only three movements. The 13 minute first movement opens with the symphony's motto theme, an almost Brucknerian idea. This is heard in various guises, including a quick variant, until the lower strings announce the fine second theme. It is soon repeated by Sinding's favourite woodwind instrument, the clarinet. The development, beginning at 4 mins 49 secs, is largely concerned with the motto theme. The recapitulation arrives at 7 mins 42 secs. As in the slow movement of the First Symphony, the restatement of the second subject is given to the whole orchestra at 9 mins 51 secs. This is a most impressive passage. The coda is built on the motto theme. A particular feature of this movement is the active writing for the horns, very much in the manner of Stenhammar's First Symphony.

The lovely 9 1/2 minute slow movement is an arch structure. There is very little development in this movement, the composer remaining content to repeat his ideas in ever more extravagant orchestrations. As usual with Sinding (and Scandinavian composers in general) the main theme is stated at once. It may remind you of Grieg. Before long the strings announce the second melody and, after a passionate restatement, an idea closely related to it is heard on the clarinet at 3 mins 1 sec. The string tune returns on the horns at 5 mins 24 secs and the opening melody returns on the strings at 7 mins 23 secs. The coda is built on the clarinet tune.

The 11 minute finale is a fairly straightforward rondo. The main theme is a march tune, not much like a hymn whatever the booklet notes say (certainly my congregation would have trouble with the syncopations). It is a catchy tune which will grow on you. A Russian influence is apparent here, Glazunov in particular. There are two lyrical episodes, the more important of which is the first. Gradually, as the second episode progresses, Sinding begins to reintroduce ideas from earlier in the symphony. The first of these, at 7 mins 10 secs, is a reference to the clarinet tune form the slow movement. (You'd do well to spot this.) Gradually the motto theme emerges as do further references to the slow movement and then, at 9 mins 29 secs, the music of the march tune is cleverly combined with a speeded up version of the melody from the first episode. At 10 mins a lively, diatonic version of the march tune minus its syncopations brings the symphony to a joyous conclusion though not before a final statement of the motto theme.

Sinding's symphonies have always had a bad press, not helped by the fact that the composer, as an old man suffering from dementia, joined the Norwegian Nazi party, but they have a lot to offer if you are prepared to make the effort. The Third is, I would say, the best of them but it is not an easy listen. The First is much easier to grasp but the Second is a more characteristic work. These symphonies are very rarely played in concert and the need for repeated listening makes them ideal gramophone material. The performances and recording are fine.

This recording is now available on the much cheaper Apex label.

(I hope to review the rival CPO recording soon.)


Sinding: Symphony 1, 2
Sinding: Symphony 1, 2
Price: £6.23

5.0 out of 5 stars The First Symphony is the more approachable work but the Second is more characteristic and may, ultimately, be more rewarding., 7 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Sinding: Symphony 1, 2 (Audio CD)
Sinding's First Symphony cost its composer a great deal of effort. Its gestation lasted most of the 1880s and it did not reach its final form until 1892. Although it is stylistically inconsistent and a little uneven, it is well worth getting to know. Ultimately, I thought it less rewarding than the second and third symphonies but it is far more immediately attractive and approachable than they are largely because its structures are clearer. It is also more conventional tonally.

The 11 minute first movement states its main theme at once. The second subject arrives in the expected key (F major) but the development, as well as making use of both main themes, achieves impetus by employing an insistent dotted note rhythm taken from the exposition's transitional material. At 5 mins 48 secs the tonic is re-established and the recapitulation proceeds regularly until, at 8 mins 27 secs and after the return of the second subject, a new descending march-like theme is introduced. This is to reappear in the finale. The coda is built on the transitional material and a final reference to the main theme. Altogether, this is a fine, notably well sustained movement.

The 10 minute slow movement is practically monothematic, the central section of its ternary structure, beginning at 3 mins 39 secs, being built on an idea closely related to the main theme. (It is also related to the first movement's second subject; thematic iterrelationships are characteristic of Sinding's music and there are many other examples in this symphony.) The passionate writing for massed strings in this movement will remind you of Tchaikovsky while the luxuriant music for solo strings in the central section shows the influence of Strauss. A pair of duetting bassoons ushers in the return of the opening music, its theme now transferred to the whole orchestra. The woodwind provide a brief coda.

The 8 minute scherzo is an immediately attractive movement. Its opening section soon quotes the main theme of the first movement and the main subsidiary idea is a strongly syncopated tune. In the way it repeats a simple fragment of melody, later extended, while the background changes, the central trio section will again remind you of the Russian Romantics.

After this, the 9 minute finale is a little disappointing, its main idea, clearly related to the symphony's opening theme, being of little interest in itself although it generates much of the ensuing music. The main second subject soon refers (at 1 min 53 secs and later) to the march-like theme from the first movement. A clearly defined development heralds the recapitulation at 5 mins 3 secs. The symphony comes to a blazing conclusion as the brass declaim a major mode variant of the movement's main theme.

The Second Symphony, which dates from 1904, is more difficult to get to grips with since it is far more fluidly composed. Structural divisions are less clear. There is, for instance, no material which can clearly be labelled transitional. The texture is heavily contrapuntal and the orchestration thick. There are only three movements. The 13 minute first movement opens with the symphony's motto theme, an almost Brucknerian idea. This is heard in various guises, including a quick variant, until the lower strings announce the fine second theme. It is soon repeated by Sinding's favourite woodwind instrument, the clarinet. The development, beginning at 4 mins 49 secs, is largely concerned with the motto theme. The recapitulation arrives at 7 mins 42 secs. As in the slow movement of the First Symphony, the restatement of the second subject is given to the whole orchestra at 9 mins 51 secs. This is a most impressive passage. The coda is built on the motto theme. A particular feature of this movement is the active writing for the horns, very much in the manner of Stenhammar's First Symphony.

The lovely 9 1/2 minute slow movement is an arch structure. There is very little development in this movement, the composer remaining content to repeat his ideas in ever more extravagant orchestrations. As usual with Sinding (and Scandinavian composers in general) the main theme is stated at once. It may remind you of Grieg. Before long the strings announce the second melody and, after a passionate restatement, an idea closely related to it is heard on the clarinet at 3 mins 1 sec. The string tune returns on the horns at 5 mins 24 secs and the opening melody returns on the strings at 7 mins 23 secs. The coda is built on the clarinet tune.

The 11 minute finale is a fairly straightforward rondo. The main theme is a march tune, not much like a hymn whatever the booklet notes say (certainly my congregation would have trouble with the syncopations). It is a catchy tune which will grow on you. A Russian influence is apparent here, Glazunov in particular. There are two lyrical episodes, the more important of which is the first. Gradually, as the second episode progresses, Sinding begins to reintroduce ideas from earlier in the symphony. The first of these, at 7 mins 10 secs, is a reference to the clarinet tune form the slow movement. (You'd do well to spot this.) Gradually the motto theme emerges as do further references to the slow movement and then, at 9 ins 29 secs, the music of the march tune is cleverly combined with a speeded up version of the melody from the first episode. At 10 mins a lively, diatonic version of the march tune minus its syncopations brings the symphony to a joyous conclusion though not before a final statement of the motto theme.

Sinding's symphonies have always had a bad press, not helped by the fact that the composer, as an old man suffering from dementia, joined the Norwegian Nazi party, but they have a lot to offer if you are prepared to make the effort. The Third is, I would say, the best of them but it is not an easy listen. The First is much easier to grasp but the Second is a more characteristic work. These symphonies are very rarely played in concert and the need for repeated listening makes them ideal gramophone material. The performances and recording are fine.

(I hope to review the rival CPO recording soon.)


Die Toten Augen
Die Toten Augen
Price: £11.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A fine historic recording of D'Albert's captivating opera., 31 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Die Toten Augen (Audio CD)
Eugen D'Albert (1864-1932), though best known as a virtuoso pianist, wrote no fewer than twenty operas, most of which have disappeared. From those that have been recorded, together with his concert music and various written reports, it seems that he was an extraordinarily eclectic composer whose style at different times encompassed influences as varied as Brahms, the new music as represented by Liszt and Wagner, German Expressionism and even jazz.

In "Die Toten Augen" D'Albert was attempting to synthesise characteristic features of Italian and German opera of the time. The orchestral writing is obviously in the tradition of Strauss but the melodic ideas are Italianate in nature. They are diatonic, lyrical, easily assimilated and sit just as well within the orchestral texture as they do in the vocal line. Indeed, they are often sung and that is how many of them make their first appearance. Melodic interest, then, is evenly distributed between the orchestral and the vocal parts.

Amongst famous operas the closest parallel would probably be with Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel" and, if you love that work (who doesn't?) then you will also fall for "Die Toten Augen". It is true that, with the exception of the aria "Psyche Wandelt Durch Saulenhallen" whose tune subsequently pervades the opera in various forms, and the gorgeous melody for the shepherd in the Prologue (superbly sung here), D'Albert's ideas are less extended than Humperdinck's, but they are no less indelible.

This performance dates from 1951 and derives, I think, from a radio recording. There are no weak links in the cast. The singing on the CPO version is very good but that on this recording is superior. Walter Born conducts more fluidly than does Rolf Weikert, always keeping the music moving. The mono recording (described as "cruddy" elsewhere) is perfectly acceptable. It is, of course, nowhere near as opulent as that on the alternative recording but it is nicely balanced and clear. The voices are well caught although there is a little distortion at high volume levels. I could have done without the momentary dropouts at the beginning of each track on the second disc, however. Perhaps other transfers of this recording won't be affected.

The principal recommendation for "Die Toten Augen" remains the CPO recording, of course, but once you have been hooked by this opera, I would suggest you spend a small amount on this alternative version. You won't be disappointed. There is virtually no documentation, merely a summary of the plot in German, but you get a full libretto with the CPO discs.


Christian Sinding: Symphonies 3 & 4
Christian Sinding: Symphonies 3 & 4
Price: £12.44

5.0 out of 5 stars Two challenging Wagnerian symphonies, the Third in particular worth the effort. A superior disc to the Warner/Apex alternative., 24 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
If you want to get to know these two fine but challenging symphonies, then this is the disc to go for. The performances are far better moulded and balanced than the Warner/Apex alternatives. They are also more confidently conducted and better recorded. To give just two examples, the bassoon solo at the beginning of the Third Symphony's scherzo is clearly audible here and the little march-like episode in the last section of the Fourth is no longer obscured by a decorative (or "maddening") flute line. The booklet notes are also much fuller. They make some interesting points about the music and even quote the poem, Sinding's own, upon which the Fourth Symphony is based.

These performances are so much more lucid than those on the alternative disc that they almost render the description of the music I wrote in my review of that disc redundant. However, these are still far from easy works to get to grips with so I will quote from that review here. I have changed the timings, of course.

The 45 minute Third Symphony dates from 1920. The 14 minute first movement states its main theme at once. The mood is as confident as the opening of Schumann's "Rhenish" Symphony or Elgar's Second. This is a fine, striding tune, the most memorable idea in either symphony. Within a few seconds its contour will remind you of the "Siegfried Idyll" 's opening. Heard in every movement, this is the symphony's motto theme. The second subject is in two parts, the first heard at 2 mins 12 secs on low woodwind (this seems to be a habit of Sinding's) and the second at 3 mins 32 secs. The most striking episodes in the development, which begins at 4 mins 31 secs, are the Straussian treatment of the main theme heard almost at once and a brassy, Wagnerian passage at 6 mins 29 secs. The recapitulation begins at 8 mins 25 secs, though the tonic is not yet established. At 10 mins 20 secs, the oboe restates the first part of the second theme and its second strain returns at 11 mins 52 secs on the clarinet. (From this point on the music is firmly in the home key.) The final pages are dominated by the motto theme.

The 14 minute slow movement is a lyrical outpouring, difficult to pin down structurally, though roughly ternary. The opening theme won't make much of an impression on you but that doesn't really matter. The woodwind theme at 1 min 18 secs is far more important as is its continuation played by the upper strings and the oboe at 2 mins 33 secs. This music is then varied and developed in a seamless stream. The motto theme is woven into the texture at 5 mins 13 secs and elsewhere. The music becomes more ecstatic, its climaxes overlapping. A return to the opening theme at 11 mins 48 secs brings this fine movement to a close.

Don't let the ostinato figure that opens the 7 minute scherzo distract you from the underlying bassoon theme. The other main melodic idea is a tune for the piccolo (you can't miss this!) The motto theme occurs at 1 min 50 secs and the piccolo tune is played by a trumpet at 2 mins 32 secs. These are the elements upon which the rest of the movement is constructed. The coda consists of a variation of the bassoon theme acting as an accompaniment to a woodwind march.

The 11 minute finale is another sonata structure. The opening four notes of the theme in particular will serve to bind the music together and after a few seconds the first reference to the motto theme is heard in the bass. A brief visit to the Meistersingers is followed, at 2 mins, by the clarinet intoning the elusive second theme. At 3 mins 32 secs, the clarinet plays the motto theme. A lengthy development ensues until the recapitulation arrives at 7 mins 1 sec. This is interrupted by the ostinato from the scherzo which acts as an accompaniment to the second theme as well as other material. And then, suddenly, at 8 mins 54 secs, the motto theme bursts forth in all its glory to bring this splendid, but demanding, symphony to a close.

The Fourth Symphony was premiered in 1936. It was one of Sinding's last works as he suffered from severe dementia in his final years. It is an even more difficult nut to crack than the Third Symphony as it is in seven sections, played without a break, which run for 31 minutes. There is no motto theme. This "Rhapsodie" has a descriptive sub-title, "Winter and Spring". I expect that the second section is supposed to represent winter while the ensuing section marks the first stirrings of spring but, frankly, you will not be left with a feeling of vernal freshness after having heard this music.The problem I had was that the final section, supposed to provided the symphony's culmination, though certainly passionately expressed, was just too diffuse melodically to be compelling. I found my attention wandering.

After a short slow introduction (make sure the cello figure at 53 secs registers), a vigorous allegro begins. It is hard to identify a clear melodic thread here but the ingredients of the introduction all feature. The next important idea is heard in the 'cellos at 3 mins 14 secs and again in the brass at 3 mins 34 secs and many times afterwards. This may be regarded as a transitional figure to a "second subject" (on the clarinet of course) at 4 mins 12 secs. It is that transitional idea, though, heard on the bassoon, that rounds off this section. The second section (Track 6), with its simple piano writing against a hazy background, provides welcome relief. The most important new idea here is a "climbing motif" heard on the horn at 1 min 31 secs. A little march for the woodwind concludes this section. Spring awakens (Track 7) and the "climbing motif" from the previous section is lyrically developed. ( It is clearly heard at 1 min 15 secs and 1 min 26 secs.) The main melodic interest here, though is provided by the brass. This is a variant of the symphony's opening theme and provides the work's most immediately accessible melodic idea.

The ensuing scherzo-like music (Track 8) refers to material from the first section. (Notice, for instance, the return of the transitional idea at 35 secs.) The "Largamente" (Track 9) is built on the "second subject" from the first section and also features the "climbing motif" and, at the very end, the transitional idea on the clarinet. The "Andante" (Track 10) is related to that 'cello figure from the beginning of the symphony. Then the "finale" begins. This is where I begin to lose interest though there is a fine lyrical passage at 2 mins 13 secs. After another march-like episode, maddeningly obscured in the Warner/Apex recording by a busy flute, the opening material from this section returns at 5 mins 28 secs ( and again at 7 mins 5 secs. It also forms the symphony's final climax.) Notice also the return of the symphony's very first idea at 6 mins 8 secs.

These symphonies will never be popular but, if you like a challenge, they are well worth exploring. This disc is definitely to be preferred to the Warner/Apex alternative.


Apex: Sinding Symphonies 3 & 4
Apex: Sinding Symphonies 3 & 4
Price: £6.35

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two heavyweight Wagnerian symphonies. 5 stars for the Third and 4 for the Fourth reflect a personal view., 16 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Having been enormously impressed by the CPO recording of Sinding's violin concertos (especially Nos. 2 and 3), I was keen to explore his symphonies. The Third and Fourth are fine works but neither is an easy listen. They are densely written, thickly orchestrated and sometimes overburdened with counterpoint to the extent that it is difficult to pick out the main melodic line. Although standard symphonic structures are used in the outer movements of the Third Symphony, you will still find it difficult to navigate your way around the music. Sinding's tunes are also inclined to wander and can be difficult to assimilate. Frankly, you could probably do a Ph.D sorting out the musical thought in these works...but you wouldn't get the funding as the music was written at the end of an era and thus has no real historical importance. After many hearings, I thought the Third Symphony was worth the effort required to get to know it but I was not so convinced by the Fourth.

The booklet note writer seems at a loss and confines himself for most of the time to vague comments about the mood of the music so I'll give a few pointers. The 45 minute Third Symphony dates from 1920. The 15 minute first movement states its main theme at once. The mood is as confident as the opening of Schumann's "Rhenish" Symphony or Elgar's Second. This is a fine, striding tune, the most memorable idea in either symphony. Within a few seconds its melodic contour will remind you of the "Siegfried Idyll" 's opening. Heard in every movement, this is the symphony's motto theme. The second subject is in two parts, the first heard at 2 mins 31 secs on low woodwind (this seems to be a habit of Sinding's) and the second at 3 mins 54 secs. The most striking episodes in the development, which begins at 4 mins 58 secs, are the Straussian treatment of the main theme heard almost at once and a brassy, Wagnerian passage at 7 mins 11 secs. The recapitulation begins at 9 mins 17 secs though the tonic is not yet established. At 11 mins 26 secs, the oboe restates the first part of the second theme and its second strain returns at 12 mins 58 secs on the clarinet. (From this point on the music is firmly in the home key.) The final pages are dominated by the motto theme.

The 12 minute slow movement is a lyrical outpouring, difficult to pin down structurally, though roughly ternary. The opening theme won't make much of an impression on you but that doesn't really matter. The woodwind theme at 1 min 8 secs is far more important as is its continuation played by the upper strings and the oboe at 2 mins 8 secs. This music is then varied and developed in a seamless stream. The motto theme is woven into the texture at 4 mins 31 secs and elsewhere. The music becomes more ecstatic, its climaxes overlapping. A return to the opening theme at 10 mins 25 secs brings this fine movement to a close.

Don't let the ostinato figure that opens the 7 minute scherzo distract you from the underlying bassoon theme. The other main melodic idea is a tune for the piccolo (you can't miss this!) The motto theme occurs at 1 min 42 secs and the piccolo tune is played by a trumpet at 2 mins 25 secs. These are the elements upon which the rest of the movement is constructed. The coda consists of a variation of the bassoon theme acting as an accompaniment to a woodwind march.

The 11 minute finale is another sonata structure. The opening four notes of the theme in particular will serve to bind the music together and after a few seconds the first reference to the motto theme is heard in the bass. A brief visit to the Meistersingers is followed, at 2 mins, by the clarinet intoning the elusive second theme. At 3 mins 29 secs, the clarinet plays the motto theme. A lengthy development ensues until the recapitulation arrives at 7 mins 13 secs. This is interrupted by the ostinato from the scherzo which acts as an accompaniment to the second theme as well as other material. And then, suddenly, at 9 mins 14 secs, the motto theme bursts forth in all its glory to bring this splendid, but demanding, symphony to a close.

The Fourth Symphony was premiered in 1936. It was one of Sinding's last works as he suffered from severe dementia in his final years. It is an even more difficult nut to crack than the Third Symphony as it is in seven sections, played without a break, which run for 32 minutes. There is no motto theme. This "Rhapsodie" has a descriptive sub-title, "Winter and Spring". I expect that the second section is supposed to represent winter while the ensuing section marks the first stirrings of spring but, frankly, you will not be left with a feeling of vernal freshness after having heard this music.The problem I had was that the final section, supposed to provided the symphony's culmination, though certainly passionately expressed, was just too diffuse melodically to be compelling. I found my attention wandering.

After a short slow introduction (make sure the cello figure at 47 secs registers), a vigorous allegro begins. It is hard to identify a clear melodic thread here but the ingredients of the introduction all feature. The next important idea is heard in the 'cellos at 3 mins 8 secs and again in the brass at 3 mins 28 secs and many times afterwards. This may be regarded as a transitional figure to a "second subject" (on the clarinet of course) at 4 mins 8 secs. It is that transitional idea, though, heard on the bassoon, that rounds off this section. The second section (Track 6), with its simple piano writing against a hazy background, provides welcome relief. The most important new idea here is a "climbing motif" heard on the horn at 1 min 27 secs. A little march for the woodwind concludes this section. Spring awakens (Track 7) and the "climbing motif" from the previous section is lyrically developed. ( It is clearly heard at 1 min 10 secs and 1 min 21 secs.) The main melodic interest here, though is provided by the brass. This is a variant of the symphony's opening theme and provides the work's most immediately accessible melodic idea.

The ensuing scherzo-like music (Track 8) refers to material from the first section. (Notice, for instance, the return of the transitional idea at 36 secs.) The "Largamente" (Track 9) is built on the "second subject" from the first section and also features the "climbing motif" and, at the very end, the transitional idea on the clarinet. The "Andante" (Track 10) is related to that 'cello figure from the beginning of the symphony. Then the "finale" begins. This is where I begin to lose interest though there is a fine lyrical passage at 2 mins 20 secs. After another march-like episode, maddeningly obscured by a busy flute, the opening material from this section returns at 5 mins 46 secs (and again at 7 mins 27 secs. It also forms the symphony's final climax.) Notice also the return of the symphony's very first idea at 6 mins 27 secs.

So there you are... and I feel I've only scratched the surface. Complicated music doesn't necessarily make for great music, of course. These symphonies are far too elusive to be popular and you won't hear them in the concert hall. The performances and recording are fine, though not outstanding. If you fancy a challenge and respond to heavyweight Germanic Romanticism, I can recommend this disc, in particular for the Third Symphony, but you may need a sorbet or two afterwards!

(I should add that I have now heard the rival CPO recording which is superior in every way.)


Symphonies 3 And 4
Symphonies 3 And 4
Offered by KAOZI168 Classical_ ''Dispatch in time''
Price: £19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Two heavyweight Wagnerian symphonies. 5 stars for the Third and 4 for the Fourth reflect a personal view., 16 May 2014
This review is from: Symphonies 3 And 4 (Audio CD)
Having been enormously impressed by the CPO recording of Sinding's violin concertos (especially Nos. 2 and 3), I was keen to explore his symphonies. The Third and Fourth are fine works but neither is an easy listen. They are densely written, thickly orchestrated and sometimes overburdened with counterpoint to the extent that it is difficult to pick out the main melodic line. Although standard symphonic structures are used in the outer movements of the Third Symphony, you will still find it difficult to navigate your way around the music. Sinding's tunes are also inclined to wander and can be difficult to assimilate. Frankly, you could probably do a Ph.D sorting out the musical thought in these works...but you wouldn't get the funding as the music was written at the end of an era and thus has no real historical importance. After many hearings, I thought the Third Symphony was worth the effort required to get to know it but I was not so convinced by the Fourth.

The booklet note writer seems at a loss and confines himself for most of the time to vague comments about the mood of the music so I'll give a few pointers. The 45 minute Third Symphony dates from 1920. The 15 minute first movement states its main theme at once. The mood is as confident as the opening of Schumann's "Rhenish" Symphony or Elgar's Second. This is a fine, striding tune, the most memorable idea in either symphony. Within a few seconds its melodic contour will remind you of the "Siegfried Idyll" 's opening. Heard in every movement, this is the symphony's motto theme. The second subject is in two parts, the first heard at 2 mins 31 secs on low woodwind (this seems to be a habit of Sinding's) and the second at 3 mins 54 secs. The most striking episodes in the development, which begins at 4 mins 58 secs, are the Straussian treatment of the main theme heard almost at once and a brassy, Wagnerian passage at 7 mins 11 secs. The recapitulation begins at 9 mins 17 secs though the tonic is not yet established. At 11 mins 26 secs, the oboe restates the first part of the second theme and its second strain returns at 12 mins 58 secs on the clarinet. (From this point on the music is firmly in the home key.) The final pages are dominated by the motto theme.

The 12 minute slow movement is a lyrical outpouring, difficult to pin down structurally, though roughly ternary. The opening theme won't make much of an impression on you but that doesn't really matter. The woodwind theme at 1 min 8 secs is far more important as is its continuation played by the upper strings and the oboe at 2 mins 8 secs. This music is then varied and developed in a seamless stream. The motto theme is woven into the texture at 4 mins 31 secs and elsewhere. The music becomes more ecstatic, its climaxes overlapping. A return to the opening theme at 10 mins 25 secs brings this fine movement to a close.

Don't let the ostinato figure that opens the 7 minute scherzo distract you from the underlying bassoon theme. The other main melodic idea is a tune for the piccolo (you can't miss this!) The motto theme occurs at 1 min 42 secs and the piccolo tune is played by a trumpet at 2 mins 25 secs. These are the elements upon which the rest of the movement is constructed. The coda consists of a variation of the bassoon theme acting as an accompaniment to a woodwind march.

The 11 minute finale is another sonata structure. The opening four notes of the theme in particular will serve to bind the music together and after a few seconds the first reference to the motto theme is heard in the bass. A brief visit to the Meistersingers is followed, at 2 mins, by the clarinet intoning the elusive second theme. At 3 mins 29 secs, the clarinet plays the motto theme. A lengthy development ensues until the recapitulation arrives at 7 mins 13 secs. This is interrupted by the ostinato from the scherzo which acts as an accompaniment to the second theme as well as other material. And then, suddenly, at 9 mins 14 secs, the motto theme bursts forth in all its glory to bring this splendid, but demanding, symphony to a close.

The Fourth Symphony was premiered in 1936. It was one of Sinding's last works as he suffered from severe dementia in his final years. It is an even more difficult nut to crack than the Third Symphony as it is in seven sections, played without a break, which run for 32 minutes. There is no motto theme. This "Rhapsodie" has a descriptive sub-title, "Winter and Spring". I expect that the second section is supposed to represent winter while the ensuing section marks the first stirrings of spring but, frankly, you will not be left with a feeling of vernal freshness after having heard this music. The problem I had was that the final section, supposed to provided the symphony's culmination, though certainly passionately expressed, was just too diffuse melodically to be compelling. I found my attention wandering.

After a short slow introduction (make sure the cello figure at 47 secs registers), a vigorous allegro begins. It is hard to identify a clear melodic thread here but the ingredients of the introduction all feature. The next important idea is heard in the 'cellos at 3 mins 8 secs and again in the brass at 3 mins 28 secs and many times afterwards. This may be regarded as a transitional figure to a "second subject" (on the clarinet of course) at 4 mins 8 secs. It is that transitional idea, though, heard on the bassoon, that rounds off this section. The second section (Track 6), with its simple piano writing against a hazy background, provides welcome relief. The most important new idea here is a "climbing motif" heard on the horn at 1 min 27 secs. A little march for the woodwind concludes this section. Spring awakens (Track 7) and the "climbing motif" from the previous section is lyrically developed. ( It is clearly heard at 1 min 10 secs and 1 min 21 secs.) The main melodic interest here, though is provided by the brass. This is a variant of the symphony's opening theme and provides the work's most immediately accessible melodic idea.

The ensuing scherzo-like music (Track 8) refers to material from the first section. (Notice, for instance, the return of the transitional idea at 36 secs.) The "Largamente" (Track 9) is built on the "second subject" from the first section and also features the "climbing motif" and, at the very end, the transitional idea on the clarinet. The "Andante" (Track 10) is related to that 'cello figure from the beginning of the symphony. Then the "finale" begins. This is where I begin to lose interest though there is a fine lyrical passage at 2 mins 20 secs. After another march-like episode, maddeningly obscured by a busy flute, the opening material from this section returns at 5 mins 46 secs (and again at 7 mins 27 secs. It also forms the symphony's final climax.) Notice also the return of the symphony's very first idea at 6 mins 27 secs.

So there you are... and I feel I've only scratched the surface. Complicated music doesn't necessarily make for great music, of course. These symphonies are far too elusive to be popular and you won't hear them in the concert hall. The performances and recording are fine, though not outstanding. If you fancy a challenge and respond to heavyweight Germanic Romanticism, I can recommend this disc, in particular for the Third Symphony, but you may need a sorbet or two afterwards!

(I should add that I have now heard the rival CPO recording which is superior in every way.)


Piano Concerto, Flute Concerto (Devreese, Royal Flanders Po)
Piano Concerto, Flute Concerto (Devreese, Royal Flanders Po)
Price: £6.77

5.0 out of 5 stars The Flute Concerto is attractive but the Piano Concerto must not be missed., 3 May 2014
Peter Benoit was a Flemish composer born in Flanders in 1864. As a winner of the Belgian Prix de Rome, he spent time in Germany. He also visited Paris where the "Theatre Lyrique" had accepted his opera "Le Roi des Aulnes". In the end, the production did not take place. Benoit returned home where he hoped to found an entirely separate Flemish school of composition. He managed to gather a group of like-minded enthusiasts around him but, according to Wikipedia, he completely failed in his objective because "the school's faith was tied too closely to Benoit's music which was hardly more Flemish than it was French or German". Benoit died in 1901. The most easily found portrait of him, by Jan van Beers, shows a deeply disappointed man.

Romantic Flute Concertos are a rare breed. The only one you are likely to have come across is by Reinecke. (There is, though, I see, a disc of "Belgian Romantic Flute Concertos" available!) Benoit's example is an attractive, lightweight work. It is programmatic but only in so far as each movement is given a descriptive title. The music shows no real individuality and is clearly rooted in early German Romanticism, Weber in particular. The 6 minute first movement, "Preludium: Will-o'-the-Wisps", is built on a thrusting main theme and a lyrical tune first heard on the lower strings and then extended by the soloist. There is no attempt at development but the music is effective and entertaining. The 7 1/2 minute slow movement, "Melancholie", opens with a Weberian chorus of horns intoning the main theme. Before long a pizzicato version of the theme is heard on the strings while the flute plays a wandering cantilena above. A more martial version of the tune heralds a variation in the minor mode and then a return to the opening. The 8 minute finale sees the return of the Will-o'-the-Wisps. Their dance largely consists of skittish trilling material but there is a contrasting lyrical tune and, of course, a dazzling burst of virtuosity for the soloist at the end.

The Flute Concerto, enjoyable as it is, does not prepare you for the splendid Piano Concerto which was premiered at the same concert in Antwerp in 1866. Unlike so many Romantic concertos there is no trace of meretricious virtuosity in the solo part. Indeed, the 13 minute first movement is almost Beethovenian in its seriousness of tone and its concentration of incident. The concerto's programme is more detailed than that of the Flute Concerto but the music is more than strong enough to stand alone. The most important elements in the first movement ("The Ruins of Harelbeke Castle") are the little pizzicato motif heard at the beginning, the ensuing horn fragment in particular, and a more extended melody first heard on the piano at 4 mins 39 secs. There is a substantial cadenza which maintains the mood of this splendidly argued movement.

The ternary 9 1/2 minute slow movement ("Song of The Bard") is not quite so striking but is still impressive. The first section consists of variations on the chorale-like theme heard at the beginning. The passionate middle part is largely dominated by a descending sequential phrase heard on the strings and the piano.

The 6 minute compound time finale ("Fantastic Hunt in the Night") is a Lisztian tour-de-force, vital and exciting. The horn motif at the beginning belongs to the movement's second theme but the first idea is a tune whose accompaniment interacts with the tune itself to give the music the feel of a toccata. At 4 mins 42 secs the horn motif from the first movement enters the fray and before long this blistering movement hurtles to a close.

The disc also includes the overture to "Le Roi des Aulnes". Weber is again an obvious influence in this attractive and melodious, though unremarkable, piece.

Gaby van Riet is outstanding in the Flute Concerto and, if Luc Devos is not the most scintillating of players, he still does a fine job in the Piano Concerto. You need to buy this disc for the sake of that piece. Don't miss it!


Piano and Flute Concerto
Piano and Flute Concerto

5.0 out of 5 stars The Flute Concerto is attractive but the Piano Concerto must not be missed., 3 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Peter Benoit was a Flemish composer born in Flanders in 1864. As a winner of the Belgian Prix de Rome, he spent time in Germany. He also visited Paris where the "Theatre Lyrique" had accepted his opera "Le Roi des Aulnes". In the end, the production did not take place. Benoit returned home where he hoped to found an entirely separate Flemish school of composition. He managed to gather a group of like-minded enthusiasts around him but, according to Wikipedia, he completely failed in his objective because "the school's faith was tied too closely to Benoit's music which was hardly more Flemish than it was French or German". Benoit died in 1901. The most easily found portrait of him, by Jan van Beers, shows a deeply disappointed man.

Romantic Flute Concertos are a rare breed. The only one you are likely to have come across is by Reinecke. (There is, though, I see, a disc of "Belgian Romantic Flute Concertos" available!) Benoit's example is an attractive, lightweight work. It is programmatic but only in so far as each movement is given a descriptive title. The music shows no real individuality and is clearly rooted in early German Romanticism, Weber in particular. The 6 minute first movement, "Preludium: Will-o'-the-Wisps", is built on a thrusting main theme and a lyrical tune first heard on the lower strings and then extended by the soloist. There is no attempt at development but the music is effective and entertaining. The 7 1/2 minute slow movement, "Melancholie", opens with a Weberian chorus of horns intoning the main theme. Before long a pizzicato version of the theme is heard on the strings while the flute plays a wandering cantilena above. A more martial version of the tune heralds a variation in the minor mode and then a return to the opening. The 8 minute finale sees the return of the Will-o'-the-Wisps. Their dance largely consists of skittish trilling material but there is a contrasting lyrical tune and, of course, a dazzling burst of virtuosity for the soloist at the end.

The Flute Concerto, enjoyable as it is, does not prepare you for the splendid Piano Concerto which was premiered at the same concert in Antwerp in 1866. Unlike so many Romantic concertos there is no trace of meretricious virtuosity in the solo part. Indeed, the 13 minute first movement is almost Beethovenian in its seriousness of tone and its concentration of incident. The concerto's programme is more detailed than that of the Flute Concerto but the music is more than strong enough to stand alone. The most important elements in the first movement ("The Ruins of Harelbeke Castle") are the little pizzicato motif heard at the beginning, the ensuing horn fragment in particular, and a more extended melody first heard on the piano at 4 mins 39 secs. There is a substantial cadenza which maintains the mood of this splendidly argued movement.

The ternary 9 1/2 minute slow movement ("Song of The Bard") is not quite so striking but is still impressive. The first section consists of variations on the chorale-like theme heard at the beginning. The passionate middle part is largely dominated by a descending sequential phrase heard on the strings and the piano.

The 6 minute compound time finale ("Fantastic Hunt in the Night") is a Lisztian tour-de-force, vital and exciting. The horn motif at the beginning belongs to the movement's second theme but the first idea is a tune whose accompaniment interacts with the tune itself to give the music the feel of a toccata. At 4 mins 42 secs the horn motif from the first movement enters the fray and before long this blistering movement hurtles to a close.

The disc also includes the overture to "Le Roi des Aulnes". Weber is again an obvious influence in this attractive and melodious, though unremarkable, piece.

Gaby van Riet is outstanding in the Flute Concerto and, if Luc Devos is not the most scintillating of players, he still does a fine job in the Piano Concerto. You need to buy this disc for the sake of that piece. Don't miss it!


Orchestral Music (Willen, Gavle So, Ringborg)
Orchestral Music (Willen, Gavle So, Ringborg)
Offered by Springwood Media
Price: £13.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Get to know Aulin's Third Violin Concerto first., 26 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Tor Aulin was a Swedish violinist and composer, born in 1866. He came from a musical family and, from 1884-1886 was a pupil of the great French violinist, Emile Sauret. In Berlin he studied composition with Philipp Scharwenka, Aulin was particularly interested in chamber music and, in 1887, founded the first permanent string quartet in Sweden. Around the turn of the century, he turned increasingly to conducting but, by 1912, ill health was forcing him to reduce his musical commitments. He died in 1914.

I have known and enjoyed Aulin's Third Violin Concerto for some years and was curious to hear the rest of his violin concertante music. The notes which come with this disc explain that the single movement "Concert Piece" ("Konsertstycke"), Op.7 is almost certainly identical with the First Violin Concerto. It starts with a fine passionate theme stated by the soloist over a throbbing woodwind accompaniment. After a virtuoso passage and an orchestral statement of the theme, the soloist introduces the lyrical second tune, a pleasant but rather emotionally tepid idea. After a tutti, Aulin dodges the expected development section and instead introduces a new lyrical idea. A lengthy cadenza, largely based on the concerto's first and second themes, heralds a shortened recapitulation. This is an attractive work but it fails to live up to the promise of its opening idea.

The Second Concerto, Op.11, is in the usual three movements. Both of the first movement's main themes are lyrical, This time there is a development section. It consists, as is often the case in virtuoso concertos, of the soloist darting around while the orchestra occasionally refers to the movement's main ideas. There is no proper recapitulation but the coda builds to a full scale statement of the second theme.

The outer sections of the slow movement are rather lovely in their melodic simplicity and the more impassioned central section is unusual in referring to material from the first movement, its principal theme in particular. It is this tune which brings the movement to a close.

The finale has a tarantella-like main theme and a fine aspiring tune as a second subject. Again, from 5 mins 37 secs onwards, the coda manages to incorporate references to both of the first movement's main themes.

The rest of the disc consists of dances from Gotland and Sweden. These are orchestral versions of music Aulin originally wrote for violin and piano. There is plenty of variety in the orchestration and Aulin treats the tunes imaginatively though he makes no real attempt to develop them. Many of the faster tunes are rhythmically unadventurous and built largely on broken chords and scales but they are attractive for as long as they last. It's the sort of music which would be enjoyable in concert but which you may feel no urgent need to own on disc. The highlight for me was the "Poco Andante" from the Swedish Dances with its lovely oboe melody.

I wouldn't give this disc an urgent recommendation but the Second Violin Concerto is worth hearing if you know and like the Third. Tobias Ringborg is a fine soloist and the orchestra plays well, even managing in the dances to imitate the sound of a country band at times. The recording is very good.


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