I first heard Nielsen’s Violin Concerto (1911) early into my classical collecting, a Radio 3 broadcast with Ralph Holmes, Bryden Thomson conducting. Loved it. James Ehnes throws himself into the opening flourishes with athleticism but doesn’t quite find maximum tenderness in the lyrical aftermath, but certainly Edward Gardner has detail in focus as he also does the swashbuckling Allegro cavalleresco melody that inspires the listener, and throughout Ehnes plays with polish and bravura while enjoying orchestral complements with excellent sound and good balance courtesy of Ralph Couzens (Grieghallen, June 2022; Brian Pidgeon producing). The second movement, also in two parts, is very expressive and then jaunty in the whimsical material.
Leave the disc running and you’re thrown into the maelstrom that is the ‘Inextinguishable’ Symphony (1914-16). This is not the most eruptive or combative performance, although it is cohesive and satisfying, with the intermezzo-like second movement (the score is continuous) featuring beguiling woodwinds; otherwise, there’s a slight lack of intensity that compromises in particular the build-up to the timpanists’ confrontation during the final movement, although the duels themselves are impressive; and, at least, the emphatic and surging conclusion does give the music full capacity to stimulate the idea that Life is indeed inextinguishable. Recommended with reservations, the sonically superb Chandos CHSA 5311 [SACD] is released on May 12.