In this double CD, replete with golden piano pieces of late Danish romanticism, the English pianist Peter Seivewright, almost unknown in this country, provides testament to his productive curiosity in opening up new parts of the repertoire. This production, published by Divine Art, shows that the exercise is worthwhile.
The effort required to delve into the imponderables of late Danish romanticism is highly commendable. As the accompanying text shows (for all that it sometimes overdoes its praise of Danish composers) Seivewright has immersed himself in the material. Anyone who can write about not just Carl Nielsen, but also about Emil Hartmann, Christian Frederik Emil Horneman, Otto Malling, Victor Bendix, Peter Emilius Lange-Müller and August Enna, must really know about the Danish music of the time (which in turn means having studied the scores and some Danish compendia, since recordings of the works of these composers are, unfortunately, extremely rare).
Louis Glass (1864-1936) whose piano music Peter Seivewright introduces on both discs, also formed part of this radiant musical life in Copenhagen between 1890 and about 1930. Raised in a good middle-class household, he continued the private piano school founded by his father, and devoted himself to composition. His opus includes six large-scale symphonies, a good deal of chamber music, and a significant body of piano music – the pieces on this recording do not even represent half of Louis Glass’s total piano output. Seivewright has selected two large scale piano sonatas (each about 40 minutes long), together with the “Fantasie” op.35 and some small piano pieces.
Seivewright begins with a weighty piece, the A Major Sonata op. 25 of 1898. With massive chords Glass forges a plastic and sharply contoured theme. In the development section of the second theme he tricks the listener – a chromatically interspersed figure recalls the fugue theme from Brahms’ op. 8 (the connecting section in the exposition of the main movement in the first version). But in Glass’s work the fugal part does not appear. Instead the accompaniment is overarched with tender melodic points, before chordal progression and melodic relationships characterise the main theme and the songlike secondary theme too. Glass demonstrates here not only good-quality compositional craft, he also shows himself to be an extremely profound creator both in musical terms and in relation to the piano.
With loving attention to detail and a majestic touch, Peter Seivewright understands just how to bring out the varied emotions of this music. The slow movement in particular comes across very expressively, linking closely to the principal theme of the main movement where Seivewright creates very vigorous melodic sweeps. The pianistic brilliance demanded by Fantasi op 35 is something which Sievewright masters effortlessly. He manages to hold the 20 minute piece together convincingly, clearly bringing out the striking creation of themes and their reiterations, without interrupting the tonal flow.
The earlier E Major piano sonata op 6 (1892) shows Glass as a composer clearly oriented to classical forms (and dimensions), for whom Beethoven’s late piano sonatas served as a foundation, albeit interwoven with extended harmonic models.
Peter Seivewright presents short pieces from various cycles, each marked with its own tone. From the cheerful little sugar pieces from the Fantasistykker [Fantasy Pieces] op 4 to the later Klavierstykker [Piano Pieces] op 66, a whole range of different emotions are evoked, from a lively Ecossaise to an almost religious Pastorale in the Lyriske Bagatelle [Lyrical Bagatelle] op 26. Peter Seivewright demonstrates here a technical mastery of the piano, and it is clearly audible that his heart is touched by the music. He plays with a lot of feeling for the colours and tones, but for the compositional form too. This splendid recording demonstrates that Louis Glass belongs to that class of composers who should have earned a firm place in the repertoire.
Unfortunately the sound quality of the recording is less impressive than the interpretation. In places the piano comes through too stark, at times somewhat unbalanced and jangly. But this can be tolerated for such an interesting musical offering.