Confidence abounded during Norwegian violinist Birgitte Stærnes’ recital at the Wigmore Hall on 2 May, partnered magnificently by pianist Jorunn Marie Bratlie. The intensity of Grieg’s nationalistic instincts never wavered in her performance of his G major Sonata, its contrasting sections sensitively portrayed. The Allegretto tranquillo opened sweetly, whilst a furiously fast episode tried in vain to lift the mood as the reposeful tranquillo regained its lingering power through Stearnes’ delightfully sonorous etching before plenty of character drove the Allegro animato forward, Bratlie providing a powerful yet evocative accompaniment. Christian Sinding, who lived from 1856 to 1941, is one of those composers we rarely hear on the platform, although an earlier generation found much of his music ideal for musical evenings at home.

Stærnes’ championing of perhaps Norway’s most accomplished composers for the violin proved the point with three simply amazing works that ought to have every violinist worth their salt rushing out to buy and play them! Stearnes’ moving accounts of the Opus 9 Romance, the Prélude to the group in Opus 43 and the three-movement A minor SuiteOpus 10, were all eyeopeners and ear delighters. Playing these works from memory showed a clear affinity with the pieces and the composer, the Romantic essence oozing from the violin with an utter expanse of a noble and enduring Norwegian spirit. I thoroughly recommend a recording of these fascinating and stimulating Sinding works performed so wonderfully by this duo, on the Norwegian label MTG’s CD 54446. An interval gave time to breathe before Richard Strauss’ Violin Sonata in found the piano supporting its symphonic posturing, while the sweep of its Romantic ideas produced fully blown and deeply penetrating episodes. The Andante cantabile was effortless in its transformation of the delicious idiomatic themes. Here was a performance invested with plenty of emotional power. Superb performances from Stærnes and Bratlie all round; Norway should be proud of them.