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Unusual and surprising fare from Our Recordings. Music Web International (UK)

August 2, 2008

Jonathan Woolf, Music Web International

Unusual and surprising fare from Our Recordings.
Here’s one for transcribers. You’ll have a copy of the Symphonie Espagnole somewhere or other on your shelves but I doubt very much that you’ll have come across Lars Hannibal’s arrangement of the work for violin and guitar. Well, here it is, played by the transcriber and his colleague Kim Sjøgren.

It goes without saying that it gives the work the character of a chamber piece and that there are numerous moments that, because of the Iberian affinities of the music, sit well for the guitar – the opening for example is immediately arresting. I’m sure Hannibal would hardly claim that the felicity and subtlety of the wind parts have survived entirely intact – but then doubtless he would counter that his transcription serves a different function. He and Sjøgren are a well established team and they have been captured in the big acoustic of the Monastery La Cartuja de la Sierra de Cazalla – not a new recording by any means as it was taped back in 1992. The sound tends to swell to fill the acoustic quite dramatically.

Sjøgren is a big boned and big-hearted player who piles on the expression. He’s made a fine recording of the Nielsen Concerto for Chandos. He digs deeply into the string though tonally things aren’t as variegated as they might ideally be. Similarly his bowing is inclined to be quite muscular. He seems to enjoy the arrangement - though in the modern manner he largely abjures expressive finger position changes and portamenti. The whole performance is rather enjoyable; in a way it put me in mind of inter-war recitals in which concertos were piano accompanied. There’s a certain utility to the thing.

Hannibal has also arranged the much less well-known Fantasie Norvégienne. In fact aficionados of the guitarist will know that he’s recorded it in a version for sopranino recorder and guitar with his wife Michala Petri [“Kreisler Inspirations” - RCA 74321 75479-2]. This again is an orchestral work that Hannibal has downsized appropriately for guitar and violin. It’s not inappropriate really as, unlike the companion work, you’re highly unlikely to run into this in concert. Violinists of old generally played it in a piano reduction anyway, so Hannibal’s work is well founded here. Once again Sjøgren makes a big sound, explicitly contrasting upper and lower strings in a tonal tussle of wills. Occasionally some of the lower string work is a little hoarse. Otherwise his playing is once again extrovert, with some throbbing vibrato to the fore in the central movement. If you’ve ever come across recordings of the work they’re likely to have been by Thibaud and Ricci.

Unusual and surprising fare from Our Recordings.

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