The Piano Concerti on this disc represent an antidote to the Grieg concerto by two obscure Norwegian composers. Both Eyvind Alnaes and Christian Sinding were forced to write more marketable popular songs instead of what might be termed "serious" compositions, and both were able to write a single piano concerto during their lives. Christian Sinding's concerto was written in 1889 and was revised in 1901 (which is played on this recording). It struck me as a grand work following in the footsteps of Grieg but not incorporating any of the folk melodies that the older composer user; Sinding was much more cosmopolitan in his outlook and was influenced by Liszt and Wagner. The three movements of Sinding's concerto are connected by thematic relationships. In the second movement, described by critics of the time as "Nordic," a solo horn presents the main theme of the first movement and goes on in a dreamy character. The final movement has a more heroic character and is darker in character, somewhat like Sibelius.
The Concerto of Eyvind Alnaes, written in the Romantic style of Anton Rubinstein and Sergei Rachmaninov, has an immediate appeal for the brilliant melodies and virtuoso piano writing. The concerto is scored for a large orchestra that includes eight horns, four trumpet, two tubas and six trombones. The first movement comes close to sounding like a mini-tone poem with a passionate theme played by the full orchestra alternating with quieter, more reflective passages. The middle movement is written as a funeral march but it is not entirely somber: the music has a triumphant middle section before returning to the mournful theme; then, with a roll of timpani, the final waltz movement begins; a charming mixture of popular tunes woven together with a brilliant piano part.
The Alnaes concerto is immediately accessible while I found the Sinding concerto required more hearings to appreciate but Piers Lane does a magnificent job playing these demanding works and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra with Andrew Litton make excellent partners. The recording, as one expects from Hyperion, is nicely balanced and clear.