glarean magazin – Sensitive feeling for the intimate passages (EN)

The young Norwegian cello virtuoso Sandra Lied Haga (born in Oslo in 1994) makes an impressive album debut on the Simax/Naxos CD label with Tchaikovsky’s „Rococo Variations“ and Dvorak’s Cello Concerto, outdoing several other renowned recordings in various ways.

„Don’t ask about the magic,

that fills me!

You can’t believe the bliss,

that his love made me feel,

the love that is only for me, only for me.“

From this song „Leave me alone“ by Ottilie Kleinschrod, set to music by Antonin Dvorak at the turn of 1887/1888, speaks a blessed heart, resting in its incomparable love, which – to protect its precious love – closes itself off from the world. It is the favourite song of Dvorak’s sister-in-law, Countess Josefine Kaunic – and the key to Dvorak’s famous Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra op. 104 in B minor, composed in the New World in 1895.

Homesickness, dismay at the serious illness of his childhood love, but also an optimistic mood of departure were the inspiration for Dvorak’s important composition of symphonic dimensions. When he learns of the death of his former piano pupil, he changes his score and integrates the song quoted in the second movement into the finale – the concerto now finally becomes the Song of Songs of Love.

Coming from Norway’s infinite vastness

Coming from the infinitely wide perspective of the Norwegian landscape, Sandra Lied Haga was already at the age of three a participant in the Young Talent Promotion Programme at the Barrat Due Institute of Music in Oslo and, long since present at many international festivals, was recently awarded the Equinor Classical Music Award 2019. In this recording of concert recordings of February and March 2019 from the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, she is accompanied by the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia „Evgeny Svetlanov“ conducted by Terje Mikkelsen.

And what you hear there is simply overwhelming. Even the concentrated, measured, thoughtful, but never sluggish introduction makes it clear that it is not about a few snappy effects or the mere savouring of „beautiful passages“, but about the tension, the „great breath“ and the soul of the work.
One is amazed when Lied Haga shapes her part with unspent naturalness, sure instinct and great virtuosity to a convincing, fascinatingly beautiful and touching performance. Far away from routine and clichés, she succeeds in making the smooth transition from the extroverted outbursts to the moments of the wonderfully intimate vocal introspection.

Song of Love

The second movement, formed from the song motif, seems like an intimate love duet – across the ocean – at first seemingly broken, then intensified by the news of illness. The fact that the lyrical passages in particular – also thanks to the great partnership between orchestra and soloists – are particularly successful is due to the overall very coherent and faithful interpretation of Haga’s song, which – carried by Mikkelsen and the orchestra on the much-quoted „hands“ – meets the work with fine feeling and delightful sensitivity. However, these enchantingly beautifully played moments do not stand out, but rather fit seamlessly into the closed and coherent performance. An intensive dialogue develops over three movements, which almost rediscovers Dvorak’s last great work as the „Song of Love“.

An eye for the essential

With the same undisguised eye for the essential, the performers also take aim at Peter Tchaikovsky’s „Rococo Variations“. Conceptually logical, they fall back on the original, instead of the version modified at the request of Tchaikovsky’s cellist Wilhelm Fitzenhagen, which offered the soloist a larger stage for self-expression.
Here, too, we marvel at the clear, naturally beautiful tone of the young Norwegian who, in great agreement with orchestra and conductor, brings to life the composer’s reminiscence of another time, namely the sound world of the 18th century (especially that of the young W.A. Mozart).

Sandra Lied Haga thus presents a great debut album with these two romantic recordings. Her tone is of natural „Nordic“ clarity, but she also shows a sensitive feeling for the intimate passages of these standard works of the romantic repertoire. She never succumbs to the temptation of self-portrayal, but penetrates the core of the works faithfully, also thanks to her equal partners. In this way she outshines many a recording by renowned artists and record labels. A beautiful discovery. ♦

Peter Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme op. 33 (original version); Antonin Dvorak: Celle Concerto in B Minor op. 104 – Sandra Lied Haga (cello), The State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia ‚Evgeny Svetlanov“, CD-Label Naxos