Romance: Music for Violin and Orchestra by Danish Composers, performed by Christina Åstrand, Turku Philharmonic Orchestra & Jukka Iisakkila
A lustrous pearl adorns the cover of this album and it is a perfect representation of this repertoire. Warmth permeates every note of these Danish masterworks thanks to the beauty of violinist Christina Åstrand’s playing. Whenever I first listen to an album for these reviews, I like to do a full listen, with no preconceived ideas about the repertoire or performers (if possible). Only after that is complete do I start researching the composers, their eras and why the performers chose this repertoire. I fell so much in love with this album from the very first notes, I ended up listening to it three times through before I even thought to start looking anything up.
The album starts with the dark opening of the ‘Concert-fantasie’ by Otto Malling. Its opening lilt morphs into a bouncy tune that allows the violin to merrily chat with other instruments in the accompanying orchestra. While all the works on the album hark from the Romantic era of composition, many of them are also simply titled ‘Romance’ with offerings from Peter Erasmus Lange-Müller, August Enna and Johan Svendsen. With a deft hand, Jukka Iisakkila leads the orchestra through their paces. At no point do you feel like they are swamping Åstrand and yet, in their moments to shine they are sublime.
Listeners who are familiar with Åstrand as the current leader of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra will already know that she is noted for her performances of contemporary works and has premiered many modern Danish composers’ violin concertos. This latest release through Dacapo, however, is devoted to the memory of some of the greatest historical Danish composers. Often very popular during their lifetimes – mostly during the late 1800s and early 1900s – these composers seem to have been forgotten in our southern edge of the world. This should be rectified immediately, and it would be great to see some of these pieces grace our local concert halls.