Pål Eide: Arne Nordheim's "Listen"

Most of the time, interest in the music of a classical music composer vanes after his or her death. This has not been the case for Arne Nordheim. Since his passing in 2010, there has been a steady stream of new recordings of his works - at least two or three each year. That might not be a lot for big guns like Stravinsky or Bartók, but even Stockhausen is not that much further ahead in number of new releases.

Today I was made aware of a "new" recording by Pål Eide of Listen! - Nordheim's only piece for piano solo. Actually, it's not completely new. Eide's website claims the CD was released already in 2010, but it seems to have been made available on Spotify only during the last few days. Point is, I've never heard about the release before, so to me it's new.

Listen! is one of Nordheim's most frequently recorded works. If I'm not wrong, it's actually the 9th time it has been committed to disc. Not too bad for a piece of contemporary music! And all the better: this is actually one of the best versions I've heard. Pål Eide is a great performer with a light and elegant touch and a fine melodic nerve. The waves of "rain" in the introduction roll evenly away with a charming ease, and the accented "drops" fall elegantly at just the right moments. The trills in the middle section flow like a breeze. All in all, it's a much nicer interpretation than the three other alternatives on Spotify; the abridged and a bit sloppy Bekkelund from 1996 and the somewhat stressed out Steen-Nøkleberg from 1999 and 2007 (hør under).

The rest of the album is nice as well. Listen! pairs well with Jesper Koch's Images of Lorca. Maybe Eide's lightness and elegance is a bit too much for Bach, and maybe the Rachmaninoff-sonata lacks a bit of weight. But on Listen, I feel that Eide's getting it just right.


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