05 Mar 2021

Nordic Rhapsody

Johan's second album on the label BIS is out today! On this disc Johan is partnered by pianist Christian Ihle Hadland and together they have chosen a recital programme dedicated to the works of six Nordic composers.

Only 20 years old, the Scandinavian violinist Johan Dalene has already been hailed as "a musician of special sensibilities" (Gramophone) in possession of "a rare fire" (Diapason), and his début disc, with the concertos of Tchaikovsky and Barber, was described as "one of the finest violin débuts of the last decade" in the BBC Music Magazine.

"Much of the music featured on this album was written in the period when Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland were all searching for a national identity" commented Johan Dalene, "and I think one can hear those special Nordic characteristics echoed in each of these works. Even though all the music feels connected in that sense, the individual pieces are very different in style and feeling. The Grieg Sonata is full of youthfulness and charm, the Rautavaara is dreamy and mystical, while the suite by Sinding is more of a sparkling virtuoso piece. Nielsen's Romance is a youthful work which shows the composer's "lighter" side and is an absolutely wonderful little musical praline that really deserves to be performed more often."

Nordic Rhapsody is bookended by two Norwegian composers, Christian Sinding and Edvard Grieg. What is interesting is that even though Sinding's Suite "in the old style" was composed some 25 years after Grieg's Sonata No. 1, it is the latter work that is most forward-looking. Here the composer introd­uces elements of his national style, which in turn would contribute to the development of "a Nordic style".

Following on the heels of Sinding is a Swedish-Finnish-Danish trio with personal ties – Wilhelm Stenhammar was a close friend of both Sibelius and Nielsen, whose music inspired him to free himself from Central European influences. His Romances and the three miniatures by Sibelius were composed during the 1910s, while Nielsen's Romance in D major is a youthful work offering Dalene – winner of the 2019 Nielsen Competition – the opportunity to send a greeting to the composer. Last but not least among these composers, Einojuhani Rautavaara represents a great leap in time. His music is often described as synonymous with a contemporary "Nordic style", however, and the transition from Notturno e danza to Grieg's Sonata is as smooth as the ice on a Finnish lake in winter.

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