For my third album I've chosen two of the great Nordic violin concertos.
Carl Nielsen's violin concerto opens with a tumultuous prelude that presents several of the melodic themes, as well as introducing rhythmic elements that recur throughout the concerto. The musical language is at times austere, but also laden with surprises – unexpected harmonies and sudden changes of mood. Here we find pride, joy and an exquisitely beautiful and melancholy slow movement which ends with a question.
Nielsen is often described as being a cheerful, witty and charming person, and indeed there is a lot of humour contained within his music, but it is certainly never superficial. The concerto was somewhat of a struggle for Nielsen to write, and was neither a quick nor easy process. His goal was to create music with substance which would provide a challenge for the soloist, as well as presenting the violin in the best possible light. He succeeded in creating a neoclassical masterpiece with infinite richness of detail.
Sean Sibelius' violin concerto has been a dear companion of mine for many years and it is a Concerto that I've always loved. The piece contains considerable technical demands, evidence that Sibelius was himself a violinist. He uses the possibilities of the violin to its very limit, as well as managing to convey the grandeur of the Scandinavian landscape in an incredibly powerful way.
The first movement starts off in stillness, inspired by the Finnish nature with its silent and cold forests. After the very brief orchestral introduction which offers a sense of mystery and possibility, the solo violin enters on an off-beat G, creating a clashing yet beautiful dissonance with the orchestra.
The music is at times dark, at times exhilarating, although there are also moments, especially in the second movement, that are breathtakingly beautiful and lyrical. The last movement is a violinistic and musical firework. It is rhythmical, wild, virtuosic and full of Finnish "Sisu" and power. The British critic Donald Tovey accurately described this movement as a "Polonaise for polar bears!"
Johan is an Exclusive Recording Artist for BIS Records.