The abiding impression of this recording is one of a deep intimacy with the music: no matter how familiar it might be, the musicians – the orchestral players as much as the soloist – seem to treat it with the same mix of delicacy and excitement that you feel when someone hands you a newborn baby.
6 out of 6 stars rating
This was my first encounter with Sandra Lied Haga’s playing, and I was blown away by the quality of her musicianship: normally I can take or leave Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme (largely because of the banality of the theme itself), but she compels me to listen by finding sincerity in every note. Terje Mikkelsen gets equally attentive playing from his Moscow musicians, the woodwinds especially. Close microphones pick up her breathing, which is a source of mild annoyance (if it’s not in the score, you shouldn’t be able to hear it in the recording), but it also increases that feeling of intimacy with the music, as if you were sitting next to her on the stage. On the more epic canvas of the Dvořák, the intimacy that made the Tchaikowsky seem like chamber music writ large here has the effect of catching and holding your attention as an experienced story-teller might, engrossing you in the narrative and somehow persuading you to catch your breath with excitement even when you know how the tale will unfold. That is the hallmark of an outstanding performance – that you listen to the music as new – and both composers are served superbly well by their interpreters here; the slow movement of the Dvořák in particular is nothing less than exquisite. And it’s not simply a question of a particularly good soloist: Mikkelsen and his Muscovites likewise cover themselves with glory. Moreover, the recorded sound is of exceptional clarity – you can hear every strand of the texture – and the acoustic warm: the recording was made inside the hallowed walls of the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire – a space inside which more music history has been made than almost anywhere else. George Hall supplies a thoughtful booklet note. Arve Tellefsen once told me that he had to go to Denmark for his further training as a violinist since teaching of the requisite quality wasn’t available in the Norway of his youth. Well, look how things have changed within the lifetime of that fine man and musician: Norway seems to be spinning off first-rate musicians like sparks off a Catherine wheel, and Sandra Lied Haga is plainly another young Norwegian destined for a career among the major performers of her day. In the meantime I recommend this recording with every enthusiasm, and with gratitude for an hour of the kind of inspired music-making that refreshes the jaded soul.
Tchaikovsky Variations on a Rococo Theme, op. 33 (original version); Dvořák: Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 104
Sandra Lied Haga (cello); Evgeny Svetlanov State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia, dir. Terje Mikkelsen Simax PSC 1363 (62 minutes)