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Concert: Kraggerud, Gimse at Wigmore Hall, Daily Telegraph

Daily Telegraph 28 April 2004

22/06/2004 :: This was one of those heart-warming recitals that showed a young artist following the true path, using his widening experience to consolidate and enrich his playing rather than going down that dead-end route of instant gratification.

The Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud, extolled on these pages when he first appeared in 1997, is still only in his very early thirties, but his reputation is already international.

Like other musicians who have emerged from Norway - among them the pianist Leif Ove Andsnes and cellist Truls Mark - there is an essential seriousness about Kraggerud's approach to interpretation; a way of probing the music to find its expressive kernel and of focusing on those values that illuminate stylistic traits.

It has that satisfying effect of lifting the music, of making it live and breathe, and of making it immediately interesting, while implying that there is more to it than meets the eye.

Ably partnered on the piano here by his compatriot Havard Gimse; Kraggerud gave a first half of Beethoven's F major Spring Sonata Op 24 and Martinu's Sonata No 3 - which has no designated key, since the harmony, like the music itself, is restless.

As such, it provided a neat foil to the Beethoven, where the vernal freshness of Kraggerud's reading was not limited to the lyrical lines that give the sonata its nickname but embraced a broad and convincing spectrum of subtle dynamic shadings and the occasional shock tactic.

There was nothing ndulgent or superfluous about these. In fact, they were sparked nalurally by the music, attesting to its Beethovenian bite as well as its surface charm.

There was a close partnership here between him and Gimse. as there was also in the Martinu sonata, where the sharp-edged rhythms, tensions, spry accents and explosive passions were articulated with equal conviction and musicality.

For Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata, Kraggerud switched to the viola. In timbre and range this is the instrument that most closelya pproximates to the arpeggione, which became defunct almost as soon as it was invented. Kraggerud's mellow tone and finely shaped phrasing, investing the opening with poignant bleakness, burgeoned wondrously in a performance of absorbing sensibility, dramatic impetus and sharp, reasoned musical characterisation.

Anybody going to Norway's Bergen Festival or Risør Festival of Chamber Music this year will be able to hear much more of Kraggerud, but he is worth watching out for wherever he is.

Geoffrey Norris

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