Niklas Sivelöv, Piano


Niklas Sivelöv’s artistic temperament, impeccable technique and spellbinding stage presence have made him a favourite with audiences in the Nordic countries and far beyond.

Niklas made his professional debut with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra in 1991, performing Bartók’s testing Second Piano Concerto at the Stockholm Concert Hall. He has since appeared as a concerto soloist the world over, working with orchestras including the Zurich Tonhalle and the Orchestra de la Suisse Romande. He works with all the major Scandinavian orchestras and has collaborated with conductors including Mario Venzago, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Leif Segerstam, Thomas Dausgaard, Paavo Berglund, Alan Gilbert, Sakari Oramo and Patrick Gallois.

Schumann and Scriabin are central figures in Niklas’s musical life, but his repertoire stretches from Johann Sebastian Bach to Per Nørgård. He has worked intensively with the former composer’s Well Tempered Clavier and in 2010 performed the complete work across three concerts at Bargemusic in New York. Niklas has a repertoire of over 50 piano concertos including the most demanding works by Bartók and Prokofiev. His extensive discography incudes the two piano concertos by Wilhelm Stenhammar as well as music by Bach, Beethoven, Scriabin, Berwald, Schumann, Englund and Liszt for labels including BIS, Caprice, Simax, Phono Suecia and Dux. His recordings have garnered the highest honours: the Diapason d’Or, the Penguin Rosette, the Vox Populi Award and nominations at the Cannes Classical Awards and the Independent Music Awards.

Niklas has also recorded a disc of his own music for the British label Toccata. Since 1985 he has written more than 40 scores including three concertos for piano and orchestra and a set of 24 Preludes for piano; his works have been recorded by Martin Fröst, Øystein Baadsvik and others. Niklas is also a notable exponent of the art of piano improvisation, and in 2008 released a disc of his own improvisations on melodies by the Swedish composer Carl Michael Bellman.

Niklas grew up in Skellefteå in northern Sweden where he began playing the organ aged 6. He moved to piano and studied at the Royal Swedish Academy of Music and with Gabriel Amiras, Maria Curcio, Esther Bodin-Karpe and Liisa Pohjola, continuing his studies in Helsinki, Bucharest, Trossingen and London. Niklas lives in Malmö and is professor at the Royal Danish Music Academy in Copenhagen.


Please note: This repertoire list is for reference only. The choice of repertoire for a particular project remains at the artist’s discretion.

Concertos with orchestra

Alexander Skrjabin

Concerto in F sharp minor, Op. 20

Arnold Schönberg

Concerto for piano Op. 42

Béla Bartók

Piano Concerto No. 1, Sz 83
Piano Concerto No. 2, Sz 95
Piano Concerto No. 3, Sz 119

Bohuslav Martinu

Sinfonietta giocoso
Concerto no. 4 INCANTATIONS

Camille Saint-Saëns

Piano Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 17
Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22

Carl Maria von Weber

Konzertstück in F minor Op. 79

Edvard Grieg

Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16

Felix Mendelssohn

Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25
Piano Concerto no. 2 in D minor, Op. 40
Rondo Brillante in E-flat Major

Franz Berwald

Concerto in D Major

Franz Liszt

Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, S124/R455
Totentanz S126

Frédéric Chopin

Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21
Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11

Igor Stravinsky

Concerto with wind instruments

Johannes Brahms

Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 83

Lars Ekström

'The Dream Age' Rondo for piano and orchestra

Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 19
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58
Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 73, "Emperor"

Maurice Ravel

Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D Major
Piano Concerto in G major

Niklas Sivelöv

Concerto Classico
Concerto no. 2 for piano and strings

Paul Hindemith

The Four Temperaments for piano and strings
Concerto for piano and orchestra

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23

Robert Schumann

Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54

Samuel Barber

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra

Sergei Rachmaninov

Piano Concerto no. 2 in C-minor, op. 18
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43
Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30
Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 1
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G minor, Op. 40

Sergej Prokofiev

Piano Concerto No. 1 in D flat major, Op. 10
Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 16
Piano Concerto No. 5 in G major, Op. 55
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, Op. 26

Wilhelm Stenhammar

Concerto no. 1 in B flat minor
Piano Concerto no. 2 in D minor, Op. 23

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, KV 467 "Elvira Madigan"
Piano Concerto No. 16 in D Major, KV 451
Piano Concerto No. 26 in D major, KV 537, "Coronation"
Piano Concerto No. 12 in A - Major KV 414
Piano Concerto No. 14 in E flat Major, KV 449
Piano concerto No. 9 in E flat Major, KV 271, "Jeunehomme"
Piano Concerto No. 19 in F Major, KV 459
Playful Improvisations
Thu, 2015-12-17
Some years ago the Caprice label embarked on an interesting improvisations series. One sets out with a concert hall and a Steinway piano, a pianist and a sound technician. Nothing is prepared, everything is improvised, the pianist is given a theme on the spot. One of the pianists, the first of four before the crisic struck in recording business and the project was closed, was Niklas Sivelöv. The others were Mats Öberg, Jacob Karlzon and Olga Konkova. It tells us that Niklas Sivelöv is an excellent improviser. On Sivelöv's new double disc with improvisations for one and two pianos, is it not about a particular theme, but more or less freely improvised music. In a brief mail conversation Niklas Sivelöv writes that the improvisations for two pianos were made as follows: First improvisations on piano 1, then improvisations on piano 2, while wearing earphones playing the recording of piano 1, and the improvisations on piano 2 are based on what can be heard from piano 1. It was not exactly easy, as everything was done without prior preparation. The difficulty lies in remembering what one has played and then improvise over that and find something which matched, he writes. Niklas Sivelöv offers approximately one and a half hour of improvisation with playfulness, temperament and of course great love for music. I find that the expression and emotions belong mainly in the beginning of the 20th century, somewhere between Claude Debussy, Erik Satie, who both worked in opposition of all musical currents and the budding modernism. Mikael Bengtsson
Bach Full of Surprises
Wed, 2015-12-09
NIklas Sivelöv, concert pianist, composer and professor has achieved what few other Swedish pianists have; recorded Johann Sebastian Bach's Das wohltemperierte Klavier - both books with 48 preludes and fugues in all 24 major and minor keys. And what is the suprise? Whilst most pianists stick to Bach's order, playing the first book and then the second, Sivelöv mixes. The first two preludes and fugues in C Major and C minor are selected from the second book, and then the two pieces in C sharp Major and minor from the first book follow. It feels a little strange in the beginning. The order which is more or less programmed in ones brain is constantly challenged, and one does not really sink into the meditative state which one normally finds oneself in when listening to Das wohltemperierte Klavier. But actually after a while one again feels the contact with the music and the recording, to mix in this way gives the pianist a possibility to complete a musical path of thought: occasionally the similarities are accented and sometimes the differences. It feels unfamiliar but exciting. One must keep in mind that the first collection was published in 1722 and the second in 1744. The first was composed in order to demonstrate how one with the so called tempered tuning could play in all keys, and the second is in many ways a defense for the fugue in a time when it was on its way out. I have recordings with Edwin Fischer, Rosalyn Tureck, Angela Hewitt and András Schiff, and the favourite nearly always depends on my mood. All the mentioned are very good but with certain different qualities. Niklas Sivelöv does here present an additional dimension of Bach's Das wohltemperierte Klavier. During the years he has more and more become a pianist who is governed by feelings more than musical and mathematical formulas and calculations. It is an exciting recording with a great emotional span. In addition there are unusual intonations and small intelligent tempo changes. It feels both traditional and innovative at the same time. And it is always cool to be surprised in such a way. Mikael Bengtsson
Bach and Beethoven
Helsingør Dagblad
Sat, 2013-11-09
The keyboard of Sthens Church fine Steinway piano was this afternoon in the hands of one of the greatest pianists in Denmark - Niklas Sivelöv, professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. His programme was awe-inspiring; 2 of Beethoven's last sonatas opus 109 and 111, and Bach's Partitas 2 and 3. One gets the impression that Sivelöv can do everything on a piano. His technique is formidable, the fast tempi are perhaps a notch too fast, but it never affects his secure playing. His touch is firm, so each note stands chiselled, but he can also catch the soft and expressive in a movement. He is a man of contrasts. The Beethoven sonatas are monumental pieces, they are the capstones of his sonata production, and can be seen as a farewell with a genre, which he has made an impact more than any other composer. Niklas Sivelöv gave the sonatas life and glow with his personal interpretation of the music. Bach's partitas belong in another world. They are not less demanding than Beethoven, but they require a different approach. Instead of feelings it is the pulse of the music which dominates. ¨ It was a wionderful concert with music by the two great B's, Bach and Beethoven. Ole Josephsen
Stenhammar - Tivoli Concert Hall
Sat, 2013-06-15
"The Swedish pianist Niklas Sivelöv filled the hall and the audiences' hearts with genuine Nordic light when he interpreted his countryman Wilhelm Stenhammars second piano concerto. The 45 year old pianist is piano professor at the Royal Danish Music Concervatory, and parallell to his professor career he has an impressive soloist career. With equal shares of power and passionate poetry in his fingers, he formed the melancholy introductory theme. He deftly shifted between moods throughout the intense piece and was thoroughly convincing in the colourful cadenza". Christine Christiansen
Stenhammar - Tivoli Concert Hall
Sat, 2013-06-15
THE SWEDE SET THE PIANO ON FIRE! My goodness what a pianist the Royal Danish Concervatory piano professor is. Forget about dusty professor fingers. This Swede is an artist with capital A! That Sivelöv this evening in Tivoli also showed us his technical capacity and his romantic-virtuoso sense of style with warmth, strength and at the same time soft and fascinating pianistic way of extracting sound from the Steinway piano, made the experience of hearing the piano part in Wilhelm Stenhammar's piano concert to something, which in itself had deserved top marks. Thomas Michelsen
Stenhammar - Tivoli Concert Hall
Sat, 2013-06-15
..."One says Stenhammar was a piano virtuoso of international class, but he did not care to travel and live in a suitcase. He settled in Gothenburg, transformed the city orchestra to an elite ensemble and stayed there until his death in 1927. Is that why nobody knows his ambitious concertos for piano and orchestra? Niklas fortunately does. He has even recorded them with the orchestra in Malmö a few years ago. And when one has heard him play number two on a Thursday in Tivoli, one does not easily forget it. Sivelöv is Swedish professor at the Royal Danish Music Concervatory and is an artist of Stenhammar's kind. He is partly equally virtuoso: Quiet passages are heavenly poetic in his hands, fast passages slick as eels, powerful sections quite Russian and without filter. He is partly equally creative. When he thanked the audience for their even, rhytmic applause it was with an encore of his own. He begins with five seconds romance á la Schumann and continues with improvisations á la Keith Jarrett. Søren Schauser
Exotic Soloist
The Clarion
Tue, 2013-04-16
Niklas Sivelöv, a world-renowned Scandinavian pianist who has won numerous awards and distinctions over the years including the Diapason dOr and a Cannes nomination for best twentieth century recording, performed last Tuesday at the Newman Center to students and the public. Despite the snowy conditions, the event gathered sixty people to the Frederic C. Hamilton Family Recital Hall where Sivelövs demonstrated his music expertise through a unique performance with style and amazing skill. Sivelöv played a standard set of songs by European composers; however, his recital was anything but standard. Mixed with emotion and movement, Sivelövs love for the music was evident each time his fingers touched the keys and throughout his hour-and-a-half-long performance, Sivelöv kept the audience The majority of the audience had been respectfully refraining from clapping until after each song was complete; however, the standing ovation at the end proved he had wowed the crowd.
Helsingborgs Dagblad
Mon, 2013-03-25
(...) Drama was also offered in what was really, although not nominally, the central piece of the evening: the revival of Niklas Sivelöv's piano concerto. This piece is a volcanicly rushing collection of artistic outbursts - at one point virtuoso verging on Rachmaninov, at the next point grandiose like Copland, at the next again swinging hard like Kapustin and all the time Sivelöv-like, turning completely around inventively. As soloist Sivelöv stormed the keys in veritable cascades in a part that, (including a lot of improvisations), unaccompanied would be a piece in its own right. The ample and extremely responsive work of the orchestra acted like beautiful marble to this musical monumental building. Also the extra, the first movement of Beethoven's 30th Piano Sonata, had some small Sivelöv signatures, kindly modernized.(...) By: Fredrik Fischer
Stenhammar - 5 stars
Opus Magazine
Sat, 2012-12-01
"It is possible to find real treasures amongst Naxos' many releases such as Malmö Symphony Orchestra's recording of Wilhelm Stenhammar's two piano concertos with Niklas Sivelöv as adventurous soloist. It is without doubt the piano professor and not the conductor Mario Venzago who is in command in this recording. And when one like Sivelöv has performed Ice Piano (Fredrik Högberg) he has apparently no fear of venturing out on the ice in Stenhammar - without slipping".
Luxurious and Sparkling
Sat, 2012-12-01
Here is a plausible pub quiz question from Stockholm: Which is the most often played Swedish piano concerto? That would be the Piano Concerto No.2 in D minor by Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871-1927). Exactly. Almost everyone knows the national composers of Norway (Grieg), Finland (Sibelius) and Denmark (Nielsen), but Sweden calls for some head-scratching. Stenhammar probably comes closest to that epithet, but it is his solid Germanic musical training from Berlin, often untouched by folk influences, which makes him somewhat less distinctive. Both of his piano concertos are however totally enjoyable examples of Romantic piano writing. The shorter Concerto No.2 of 1908 unusually begins with a solo introduction by the piano (like in Beethovens Fourth and Rachmaninovs Second), which never gets heard again (like Tchaikovskys First). Its movements play without a break (like Liszts) but contain memorable moments and melodies, including a romping finale with Schumannesque themes. The 4-movement Concerto No.1 in B flat minor of 1893 plays for a monumental 42 minutes. The influence is clearly Brahmss Second Concerto, but he does not slavishly copy. There is enough individuality and wealth of ideas to sustain its length. The slow movement radiates beauty and warmth, before the work closes with an almost-folksy spell of lightness. Swedish pianist Niklas Sivelöv breathes a blend of lyricism and virtuosity that makes the music luxuriate and sparkle. This is the only combination of both concertos at budget price, a must for lovers of romantic concertos.
Suggestive despite the burning piano
Sat, 2012-11-24
Fredrik Högberg's "Ice Concerto" is written for the World-class pianist Niklas Sivelöv, native of Skellefteå, music professor in Copenhagen and one of the few Swedes who has received the prestigious American prize "Independent Music Awards" in the category "Classical album of the year". Högberg and Sivelöv work very well together - they seem to share the same spirit and they also have the same kind of insubordinate playfulness. With an impressing fearlessness Sivelöv finds his way through Högberg's musical World with an expression and presence that is felt here and now; Cocreator and at the same time a technicallly brilliant soloist. By: Elin Axelsson
Plays with Warmth and Spontaneity
Fri, 2012-11-23
"NorrlandsOperan has again commissioned a new piece and the premiere of Fredrik Höberg's multimedia concerto 'Ice Concerto' took place last night. The Swedish world pianist Niklas Sivelöv was soloist". "N. Sivelöv's brilliant and sensational playing of the very advanced solo part cannot be praised enough. Here were eruptive cascades, rhythmical long and intensive lines and sensitive rippling playing which can impress the most demanding audience. It was a formidable development in one of our most wellknown international pianists."
Wide Range Piano
Nordjyske Stiftstidende
Fri, 2012-09-21
The Swedish pianist Niklas Sivelöv is a musician who loves contrasts. The fondness of contrasts combined with a dazzling technique and a precise touch enables him to tackle the most hair raising musical challenges, as we were allowed to hear Wednesday evening. His address to the audience audience explaining the connection between Bach on one hand and the pieces by Liszt, Beethoven and Bartok on the other could not explain away the intense tension emerging between Bach/Liszt before the interval and Beethoven/Barók after. Bach's C minor Partita is a marvellous piece containing great contrasts. Sivelöv used his tremendous technical surplus to draw up sharp contrasts already in the introductory parts of the sinfonia, and with his perfect touch he carefully shaped the character of each particular movement; the beautiful melodic duets in the allemand and sarabande, the playful, light flow in the courante, and the springy, dancing rhythm in the rondeau and capriccio. Bach's music as structure but also movement and dance. The contrast to Liszt's 'Années de pélerinage' was marked. The seven movements held in an orchestral tonal language were light years from Bach's melodic lines. But Sivelöv masters also this challenge to perfection, to shape the sound of the piano as it were an organic, pliable material and at the same time find the melodic core, which focuses on the musical course. Beethoven's late sonata in E Major combines these two approaches as an intensified drama in the two first movements and with the unearthly beautiful melodic song in the third movement's theme with variations. This late Beethovenish balance we have also heard previously released by Sivelöv in the last great sonata in C Major. And then there was time for the last somersault of the evening with Bartók's great sonata from 1926. Here Sivelöv chiseled and shaped the first movement to a percussion orchestra - as a 'Sacre' movement for piano, while the second movement stood chopped in its strange awkward tonal shapes. The last movement was a fireworks of percussional effects which hung in the air as gunsmoke in the end. With an encore, two Argentinian dances by Ginastera, the world which Bartók had split to atoms, as again united in a whole. But only for an instant until Sivelöv ended a spectacular evening with a final excited, pulsing movement.
Klassiekshop Weblog
Tue, 2012-06-26
Its not a work from a youngster, but a finely structured and balanced composition. Both compositions have in common that they are very much written for the vast possibilities and challenges of the piano and that a pianist can let himself go on it. This quality comes through in this recording as well. Niklas Sivelöv is an excellent pianist who knows how and has the ability to reproduce the atmosphere of the piano concertos. He's being supported by an, for us not so well known, orchestra but which it ought to be, considering the quality of it.
Great Playing by Piano Professor
Helsingborg Dagblad
Tue, 2012-05-29
First piece was Bach: Partita no. 2 with its characteristic dances, followed by Beethovens richly varied Sonata no. 30. Liszt who was recognized by his peers for his advanced musical ideas and technique, opened the second half of the concert with Premiér Année de Pèlerinage with freshness and full power. Bartok Sonata with its driving rhythms and fantasies ended the concert. The pianist, composer and professor made full use of what the pieces demanded and displayed it with advanced interpretation and technique. The encore was improvisation over a song by Bellman. Uno Uudelepp
A first class performance
Fri, 2012-04-20
(...) Maybe the artistic and compositional values in a work will then get more attention, regardless of its historical impact. Especially when it is repeated in a first class performance like this by pianist Niklas Sivelöv and Swiss conductor Mario Venzago with Malmö Symphony Orchestra. Riccardo Risaliti
Sun, 2012-04-01
On this disc one can compare two different styles in Stenhammar's work. The first concerto is late romantic and highly influenced by Brahms. The second and better concerto is from a different period and with a more personal style which can remind one of Liszt's adagios. In order to perform and interpret both pieces it is necessary to have a pianist who can take on the great challenges, as the degree of technical and expressive difficulty is very high. Sivelöv is formidable in both concertos. extremely virtuoso in the Moderato movement in the second concerto and intense in the first concerto's Maestoso movement. Overall he is constantly convincing and communicating.The Swede is brilliantly accompanied byt Malmö Symphony Orchestra and is presented as a serious and enthusiastic piece of work. Venzago induces the best from soloist and orchestra and he conducts with the passion which is essention for this kind of music. The cd is - paricularly seen in the light of Sivelöv's performance - to be recommended to those who have a special passion for romantic piano concertos.
Mon, 2012-03-26
It is the title of the famous piece by Pärt which has given its title to the recital with Polish Szymon Krzeszowiec and Swedish Niklas Siveløv, whose narrative abilities allow the piece to develop naturally. In the beginning of the programme the two musicians show an attractive sense of humour in L’introducione from the Pulcinella transcription and equally the elegance which concludes the cycle. The ending fuga in Reger is perfect with clear polyphony and cohesion between the two artists. The suite by Alfred Schnittke is interpreted with a character which beautifully matches the lovely baroque int he pastoral. A monographic cd which comes to us as a fresh breath of air. Nicolas Derny
Second to None
Thu, 2012-02-02
The two concertos are touching and under Venzago's baton never exaggerated. Sivelöv's elegant flight over the deep and dark expanses reminds one that the inheritance from Wagner also could be transformed to sensitive melancholy. And with a sharp Sivelöv at the keyboard, one is constantly reminded how much there was at stake for the elegant Swedish composer with only 45 opus numbers. One cannot find a better performance of these concertos. Jens Povlsen
Wed, 2012-02-01
Niklas Sivelov negotiates the torrents of octaves and other rhetorical gestures with aplomb.
Expressive Stenhammar
Wed, 2012-01-18
Niklas Sivelöv plays with great expression, blends romatic elegance with hearfelt energy, and one is struck by his fast tempi. The duration of the second concerto is almost five minutes shorter than Tanyel/Manze's version on the Hyperion label. Yes, it is fast, but never too fast. Mikael Bengtsson
Two Terrific Concertos
Mon, 2012-01-02
The Swede Wilhelm Stenhammar is an outsider in the concert life. Lucky then to have these two concertos. "The expansive romantic and differentiated playing of Niklas Sivelöv and the tense orchestra contains sufficient power of interpretaion to give an appealing performance." "Together with Malmö Symphony Orchestra under Mario Venzago the Swedish pianist does second concerto great credit." Remy Franck
An Extrovert’s Brisk Dance Through Bach’s Arpeggios
New York Times
Thu, 2010-01-07
Mr. Sivelov approached Book 1 without an apparent agenda: unlike Richard Egarr, whose harpsichord performance at Weill Recital Hall in 2008 explored relatively recent theories about what “well-tempered” tuning meant to Bach, Mr. Sivelov played the work on the piano, in the standard modern tuning. And unlike Daniel Barenboim, who seemed intent on giving each piece a distinct, personalized orchestration when he played the set at Carnegie Hall in 2007, Mr. Sivelov offered a unified view and varied his timbre and dynamics only subtly. Mostly, he favored brisk tempos, bright timbres and a clean if sometimes weighty sound. You could question his speediness at times: in the opening C major Prelude, he played the arpeggiated figures so quickly that the lingering overtones made them sound almost like solid chords. Yet here and in several other unusually quick readings, he let the top notes in each arpeggio ring out clearly to create a graceful, floating melody. And particularly in the fugues, he maintained a remarkable transparency of texture. At times — in the outgoing E major and G major preludes and fugues, for example — he leaned into the music almost like a jazz pianist, tapping his left foot quickly to a rhythm from within Bach’s dense contrapuntal texture. But though extroversion was clearly Mr. Sivelov’s preferred mode, he was sensitive to Bach’s darker moods as well: his calm, supple performance of the D sharp minor Fugue and the organlike sound he brought to the stormy, chromatic Prelude and Fugue in A minor were among the highlights of his performance. By Alan Kozinn
Helsingør Dagblad
Mon, 2010-05-03
Niklas Sivelöv impressed the audience in Sthens Church. Sunday afternoon we had the pleasure of listening to one of our leading Scandinavian pianists who has an international career. Sivelöv played Schumann's wonderful Sonata no. 2, Op. 22. He has the temperament and also the ability to give the music time and space and his performance gave the audience a very pleasurable experience. Pieces by Chopin opened for Sivelöv's colourful interpretation. The two mazurkas were fierce and elegant, while Nocturne no. 16 was given its own sensitive expression. Polonaise no. 6 in A flat Major is for those artists who have virtuoso fingers, feeling, musicality and understanding for the music's contents and message. Sivelöv has all these qualities. He also composes. We heard a student play excerpts from his 'Album for the Young' - fun and exciting. It was followed by Sivelöv playing his own improvisations over songs by his countryman Carl M. Bellman. The concert ended with dances by Ginastera and in Sivelöv's hands the dances were excellent and a pianistic tour de force. The audience expressed their admiration and enthusiasm with standing ovations.
Niklas Sivelöv Masters the Poetic Logic
Wed, 2010-05-19
Niklas Sivelöv has specialised in Schumann and hails him with strong interpretations of the three sonatas from the 1830's. Pure piano romance closer to Beethoven than Chopin - and closest to the composer himself in the splintered flow of ideas and melodies which was Schumann's sorcerer's brew. A classic analyst of form fdoes not find convincing regularity in Schumann. Here it is the poetic logic in the centre: the playing in contrasts, the abrupt change of feelings. Sivelöv masters this. The tones cascade forward or rest in meditating depths. A fairy tale, a bath in beauty, new views and pleasure awaits the alert listener. Carlhåkan Larsén
Interesting Bach Interpretation
Sat, 2010-07-03
Niklas Sivelöv, Swedish pianist and professor conquers the music with his whole body and personality. He rocks gently back and forth, gestures and quietly sings with the music. Sivelöv's style is always personal. There is no doubt that it is a person of flesh and blood with will power and energy sitting by the piano. Not only in Tivoli's intense Bach presentation but certainly also in the even more successful new recording of Schumann's three piano sonatas. Although one almost sensed the pain it caused Sivelöv to draw 48 pieces from both books of the Wohltemperierte Klavier out in the extreme tension in both ends of the giant speedometer, one also sensed at the same time how much thought Sivelöv was able to transfer into his fingers. Each of the preludes and fugues was given its own sustaining idea. Fugues in a tempo where the usual structured chase between three voices were dissolved to piano thunder. Melodic preludes as light romances or jazzy songs, flowing like improvisations. Or clear baroque mechanics drawn out of the regular pulse with space to hear all details. Sivelöv did not play as much pure, motorised baroque as one expects to hear in a tiome where the musicians more and more try to copy the style of early music with offset in the more limited instruments which were available to the composers. His violent tempos did give some mistakes but it did definetely not make the small units less interesting. 100 years after Bach's ground-breaking work the composers had had time to purify the sonata form and time to break it down again. Here Robert Schumann found the medium to fill a work with fragments which together, but without a clear thread, could commincate some of the man's rather violent challenges to his soul. Both the carnal love and the more existential. This world is clearly a perfect universe for Niklas Sivelöv's inclination and ability ot pour his whole being into the music on his new realease on the little ARecords label. The three piano sonatas become great raids on temperaments forever changing. Powerful outbursts with long stretched lines are succeeded by simple miniatures to change into delicate chorales or straightforward manifestations. Sivelöv is obviously never afraid of draw the knife fully through, and the consistent thinking makes the cd a small master piece amidst the grand portrayal of feelings. It would be fitting for Tivoli to programme the three sonatas as a follow-up on Bach. Henrik Friis
Great Scriabin
Thu, 2010-07-01
I am becoming increasingly fond of the Caprice label, both in its new issues and historic reissues. This is one of the former, an album recorded in 2005 by Swedish pianist Niklas Sivelöv. Except for Vers la flamme, Feuillet d’album, the op. 57 Moreceux, and the Sonata No. 4, most of this program consists of earlier works by Scriabin. Sivelöv’s mission is to show the connections between the earlier works and the later ones, to display, as he puts it in the liner notes, the way in which Scriabin interrupted his lyric moods with emotional outbursts that didn’t quite fit in. In this, he succeeds handsomely. Sivelöv’s playing is direct, crisp, and fiery. He takes no prisoners in his forthright approach to the music. Nevertheless, I must disagree with some of his tempos and phrasing. None of the slow preludes in the op. 11 set are really slow; lentos are turned into andantinos, andantes into moderatos, andantinos into prestos. Comparing him not only with Mikhail Pletnev in his acclaimed set of the complete op. 11 (Virgin Classics 45247), or even another abridged recording of the op. 11 by Mayron Tsong (Centaur 2946), I found their slower, legato approach more congenial to music that was clearly inspired by Chopin. Ruth Laredo, who recorded what must be considered one of the definitive sets of the complete Scriabin sonatas way back in 1970, points out that as a piano student Scriabin was criticized for his “ethereal” playing, and in those years he slept with a copy of Chopin’s preludes under his pillow. Of course, his aesthetic and musical approach underwent a tremendous metamorphosis around the turn of the 20th century, and his own 1910 performance of the Étude, op. 8/12 (also played on this recital by Sivelöv), recorded as a Welte-Mignon piano roll, certainly reveals an approach much closer to the Swedish pianist than to Pletnev or Tsong, but his phrasing is more legato. My point is that both interpretations are valid, and that I prefer a little more backing-off in some of these early works. And yet Sivelöv certainly does make Scriabin’s music on this CD, spanning almost the full chronology of his piano output, sound convincingly of a piece. It is as far from the ethereal Scriabin of 1890 as one could possibly get. I’ve often wondered where Scriabin may have gone musically had he lived to finish Misterium, and of course we’ll never know, but Sivelöv’s musical and philosophical approach to his music will certainly hold your attention. I personally rank this as one of the great Scriabin issues of all time, despite my caveats. Lynn René Bayley
A sonorous ebb and flow
Dagens Nyheter
Wed, 2010-06-30
Niklas Sivelöv: Schumann: Piano Sonatas A Records/Danacord The piano professor Niklas Sivelöv has compared the music soloist to an enormous antenna which with sound waves seeks its receiver. Maybe you could also talk about a sonorous ebb and flow. At least when we are talking about his interpretations of Robert Schumanns three piano sonatas from the 1830's which deals with the manic-depressive musical tendencies of the 200-years jubilee. Schumanns romantic piano music prefers to follow the logic of poetry and reflects the composers alter egos Florestan (a lively character) and Eusebius (a dreamer). Schizofrenic moods which Sivelöv controls on the limit between restlessness and reflection. Especially when the time signature in the second sonata builds up to a lightning speed with the first movement in evanescently and thoughtful haste. Best track: The finale of sonata no. 3 and no. 1. Johanna Paulsson
Poetry and Turmoil
Mon, 2010-10-04
“Sivelöv’s program consisted of both classical works by Bach and Skrjabin as well as contemporary pieces, among these a few of his Sivelöv’s own compositions. At the beginning, he played one of Bach’s preludes and fugues from the piece “The Well Tempered Piano”. He played the prelude particularly well, expressing his great musicality, and in the fugue he expressed his poetic sense. Sivelöv’s interpretation of the sonata by Haydn was intensely present and a very moving mixture of extraversion and the kind of thoughtfulness that only comes with true life experience. With Schumann’s great suite “Kreisleriana”, Sivelöv expressed the side of himself he is most famous for: being a virtuoso pianist. His interpretation of the piece was very close to the original, but it was less poetic and less delicate. Instead of emphasizing the sophisticated nuances, he emphasized the dramatic contrasts between fear, suffering, inner turmoil and the temporary moments of happiness. This interpretation of the “Kreisleriana” gave the audience an impression of a man who was haunted by his destiny. In the Sonata no. 1 from 1952 by the Argentinean composer Alberto Ginasteras, Sivelöv unfolded his fantastic technique in an explosion of rhythms and sounds in continuous movement. The encore was an improvisation of a Swedish piece, which served as a good example of Sivelöv’s personality. It was music created in the moment including an explosive and brilliant vitality as well as a poetic tone and sense of melancholy from the large and deserted forests – a very typical expression in the Swedish folk music.”
Sparklingly Clear Steinway
Fredericia Dagblad
Fri, 2011-01-28
Rarely does one hear piano works presented so sparklingly clear as with Swedish Niklas Sivelöv placed solidly by the wonderful Steinway grand piano in Tøjhuset. The Steinway thrived superbly under Sivelöv's command. Never have I heard the piano sound so splendid and deeply appealing as last night. Sivelöv is of course reperesented in Steinway's Hall of Fame in Hamburg together with pianists like Rubinstein, Horowitz, Glenn Gould and Barenboim. Sivelöv's playing is generous. He offers strenght and visions in his playing. He interprets formidably and is sure to have his audience with him at all times. The music stands fresh and new in the room as though it is created here and now for listener and artist at the same time. Of the material Francis Poulenc's og Ginastera's pieces are made of, Niklas Sivelöv created musical haute couture, which made the listener draw erect and prick up one's ears. His interpretations are a must. Commanding in expression and imperative in content. He had not made it easy for himself. All pieces on the programme were extremely demanding. Artful canonic voices in Bach's a minor Partita paired with strong rhythmical explosions in the corrente and the three last movements, where rhythm and harmony enchants. Fantastic. The piano sounded quite different in Schumann's g minor sonata with the lovely and intensely romantic andante movement given voice by Sivelöv. Many pianists make Schumann muddy, but this could never happen for Sivelöv. His playing is cleansed for the unnecessary and his ability to portray the music is clear. Poulenc's Soirées de Nazelles suited Sivelöv's knife sharp and dissecting playing superbly. Poulenc waves his wand in the neo classicist language and Sivelov is a more than alert interpreter. Again the artist 's ability to shape the many figurines did big things to the music. The movements stood printed energetic and clear in time and space. Ginastera's Argentinian Dances are inspired by folklore and were in beautiful elongation of the evening's programme and gave yet again a display of Sivelöv's impressive art of interpretation. One left the concert deeply moved with the sound of the encore - an epistle by Bellman in one's ears. I managed unexpectedly to thank him so very much. He returned with a smile and a nod. High class. Lars Zachariassen
Mon, 2011-03-28
..."And although the young Prokofiev's piano test piece has intense passages with a simple melancholy, the phrases balanced on the border of ironic comments on the romantic piano concertos of the past. Niklas Sivelöv knew all about the complexity in the music and therefore his interpretation of the 15 minute long piece was both impressive and captivating. He changed between - with absurd tempo - lyric melody, extreme culminations and small quaint motifs reminiscent of honky-tonk with the greatest ease. Sivelöv is a special personality with a large musical heart, and when he embraces the music with all he has got, wild things happen. Actually, Sivelöv's catching playing made it difficult to concentrate on the role of the orchestra, but the passages I heard were very musical and supple. Henrik Friis
Fri, 2011-03-25
Prokofiev aimed to display both his own virtuoso pianistic abilities and a superiority to the traditional classical concerto. The crazy, the beautiful, the magnificent and the humour makes the concerto an impressive piece of apprentice's work. Niklas Sivelöv released the piano part with virtuosity and attention to the detail. Camille Marie Dahlgren
Pianistic Abundance
Ystad Allehanda
Mon, 2011-09-26
Certainly Sivelöv is an intelligent artist. but the way he makes music is intelligent use of emotions more than of science. Here is no cold or mechanic exactness. Here is music to be expressed and a man who is completely absorbed in the execution. The programme consisted of excerpts of Bach's Wohltemperierte Klavier which Sivelöv performed in a quiet, meditative state and it seemed like a preparation for Schumann which followed. Schumann's second piano sonata is a journey in hopelessness and darkness of the soul. Sivelöv's emphatic interpretation of this emotional as well as technical mountain climb seemed to be a creation of the moment. Schumann's angst flowed from Sivelöv's hands. After the interval came another challenge: Three Petrarca sonettes from Liszt's 'Anées de pelerinage. With the imprint of the Schumann sonata in one's mind it was impressive to hear Sivelöv transform so effortlessly to Liszt's light love odes. Sivelöv's own improvisations over themes by Bellman came next, and Sivelöv used his extensive knowledge of all styles from baroque to jazz and rock. Alberto Ginastera's Argentine dances ended the concert, and this is a piece where the rhythm holds the main attention. Again Sivelöv mastered the music completely and one could only follow his example and give in to the music.
The Finest Performance
The Guardian
Thu, 2011-11-10
These wonderful recordings of Stenhammar's piano concertos make a superb introduction to his music, too much of which is unfamiliar outside his native Sweden. The Second Concerto (1908) is a masterpiece; the First (1894) isn't quite. Both try to negotiate between the perceived polarities of Liszt's and Wagner's experimental chromaticism on the one hand and Brahms's tempered romanticism on the other. While Stenhammar's colossal First Concerto expands on Brahms's symphonic technique, the tense, if extraordinarily beautiful Second uses Lisztian cyclic structures to constrain its complex material within a single musical span. Stenhammar specialist Niklas Sivelöv plays them in a no-holds-barred, high Romantic way, while the Malmö Symphony under Mario Venzago is tremendous. Some might prefer the harder edge and comparative detachment of Seta Tanyel with the Helsingborg Symphony and Andrew Manze on Hyperion. But it's hard not to be swept away by the Naxos disc, and the performance of the First Concerto is the finest I know. Tim Ashley
Dagens Nyheter
Fri, 2011-12-09
My main and favourite Naxos recommendation is Niklas Sivelöv's startling new interpretation of Stenhammar's 2nd. Piano Concerto with Mario Venzago and Malmö Symphony Orchestra. It is so far the most inspiring and most beautiful piano music by a Swedish composer. Martin Nyström
Not all Black and White
Upsala Nya Tidning
Fri, 2011-12-09
One can certainly sense more than black and white - even red - in Wilhelm Stenhammars dramatic and emotional piano concertos. It becomes extra apparant with the dynamically gifted Niklas Sivelöv at the piano and Mario Venzago conducts the excellent Malmö Symfony Orchestra. In the first concerto Brahms sits on the composer's shoulder and is quite dominating regarding originality, even though it is a very enjoyable concerto. The second concerto on the other hand is composed a number of years later, one meets a powerfull and independent composer and which is countedas one of the most important pieces written by a Swedish composer in the 19th century. One can't help noticing that Stenhammar was a piano virtuoso. Björn G Stenberg
Absolutely Superb
Music Web International
Wed, 2011-12-21
"Listening to this instantly appealing and well-crafted music put a query in my head. I wondered how many times one of Sweden's greatest composers had been performed at the self-styled "The World's Greatest Classical Music Festival" - the BBC Proms. The answer - in over 100 hundred years might surprise - seven pieces." "Although there is recorded competition for this music - I have not heard the recent Hyperion disc (review review) in their Romantic Piano Concerto series - at the Naxos price advantage and deploying the idiomatic and ever excellent Malmö Symphony Orchestra this is a winner. Soloist Niklas Sivelöv has a Stenhammar pedigree having recorded a solo recital disc of the composer also on Naxos." "Naxos place the larger sprawling Piano Concerto No. 1 Op. 1 second on the disc. Sivelöv makes a very convincing and muscular case for the work. Certainly, by taking a good five minutes less time than Mats Widlund on Chandos (an epic 47:18) he (Sivelöv) minimises the discursive elements in the work. I have not heard the Brilliant/BIS (review) first concerto but this current recording's 2nd Concerto is considerably finer than Cristina Ortiz's performance.Simply put Sivelöv has a more impressive technique. This is most clear in the quicksilver scherzo which is interpolated into the first movement proper. Here the kinship with Rachmaninov in general and the Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini in particular stands out. Important to note though that the Stenhammar is the earlier work by some twenty-seven years. Sivelöv is absolutely superb here; all fleet gossamer passage-work and dextrous cross-rhythms. Conductor Mario Venzago is totally at home in this idiom and the Malmö orchestra sound very fine." "Certainly it remains both absurd and shameful that institutions like the Proms have yet fully to embrace the music of this most talented yet modest man. For all lovers of romantic piano concertos this disc will bring great pleasure." Nick Barnard Read more:
Cleanly defined and pleasing - David's Review Corner
Tue, 2011-11-01
Though composition had to take second place to a performing career as a pianist and conductor, Wilhelm Stenhammar left to the world two fine piano concertos. It was, however, together with his Second Symphony and the Serenade, to prove the peak of his compositional career. Whereas the First was a lengthy score, the Second was relatively short, its three movements linked to form one long span. It is a work full of joy, and though it was already in an outdated style for the early 20th century, it gives great pleasure in a style more related to Rachmaninov than Brahms. It was thought that the score and parts of the First Concerto were destroyed in a Second World War fire, until another copy was discovered in the 1990’s. I think I have heard all the recorded performances of both works, and would certainly place this one from Niklas Sivelov as my recommendation. He goes deep into both scores, with every dynamic and rhythmic nuance keenly observed. He also has the most persuasive partners in the Malmö Symphony and Mario Venzago, and if the recorded sound needed more air around it, it is cleanly defined and pleasing. By: David Denton
Fanfare Magazine
Sun, 2016-05-01
Avid Fanfare readers might recognize the name of Swedish pianist Niklas Sivelöv from reviews of his recordings of Stenhammar (Naxos, Fanfare 35:5 for the concertos, and 22:2 for the solo pieces). There’s also a significant Scriabin disc on Caprice in his discography (Fanfare 33:6). He’s not only a virtuoso pianist, though; he is also a virtuoso composer. Here, he combines the two strands, revealing himself as something of a Klaviertiger in the composer-performer tradition. Right from the start of the 24 Preludes (2010−15), there’s a sense of fun and hijinks, in the Stravinsky-tinged Prelude No. 1; Sivelöv’s humor is frequently delightful when allowed out to play (the waltz that is No. 21 is another case in point). The Third Prelude, with its rapidly moving left hand, calls to mind Chopin’s G-Major Prélude, op. 28/3; the figuration in Sivelöv’s essay is less pervasive, however. These Preludes are all character pieces, as each one is inspired by someone who has had an impact on the composer’s life (and although they are unnamed, he does own up that they are “mainly women”). Jazz is to be heard in the background here, but so are figures such as Nancarrow (the more impossible-sounding stretches of No. 4). The composer’s own booklet note is not shy of identifying influences on his music: Bartók in No. 4 (or more accurately Bartók squared if you ask me), Chopin in No. 16, Arabic flavors in the highly virtuoso No. 23, and so on. Bach inevitably hovers in the background, sometimes coming up for air (No. 14 reveals Bachian tropes galore), more often obliquely. But it is important to note that there is an individual voice here, one that holds secrets and is keen to keep the listener at a certain remove (e.g., the chorale-based but Nordic folk music influenced No. 8). The staccato of No. 9 seems to derive from Prokofiev. Perhaps the most impressive Prelude is the desolate No. 10 ( Adagio mesto), with a central, trill-driven section that is described by the composer as “insect-like”; it bleeds into the equally fascinating Prelude No. 11. The busy, spiky No. 19 (“Fanfare”) seems to owe something to Shostakovich, while No. 20 is a very modern, and very individual, take on the French overture. Modernism, when used unabashedly, is most impressive (No. 12, with its forearm clusters and final gesture that sounds more electronic than performer-generated); parts of the quasi-improvised No. 15 are indeed graphically notated, while there is a decidedly aphoristic slant to No. 18. The virtuosity heard so regularly throughout the set reaches its apex in the concluding Prelude, its final dismissive gesture the perfect close. Sivelöv is clearly his own best advocate. He possesses the full virtuoso apparatus. This is a breathtaking achievement. The only pre-2000 work on this disc is the Due Notturni of 1989. These early pieces include some nods towards Chopin (they were written, the composer tells us, after a hard day of practicing a ballade by that composer, and the music just came naturally to him). There are some minor readjustments of texture for this recording. Deliberately programmed to provide respite after the Preludes, the first opens with a sort of Debussian haze before moving off on a more bitonal pathway. Impressionism again informs the second of the Notturni, its descending droplets of sounds perhaps simultaneously invoking late solo Brahms piano pieces. Sivelöv’s hushed, delicate performance, particularly of the second piece, is magical. The Toccatina Feroce (2014–15) could hardly provide a starker contrast. A deliberate attempt to bring Bach’s way with the toccata together with the toccatas of Prokofiev and Schumann, this is an impetuous work that whirls headlong to its conclusion, ideas passing and hardly graspable, like watching the scenery from inside a high-speed train. Both the Two Impromptus and the Jeux de Cordes date from 2015. The composer describes the First Impromptu as setting off “a little like Satie”; the present reviewer found the reference immediately audible and unmistakable. Languid and with a floating, quasi-static feel, it more dissolves than ends in any formal way; again the composer identifies his own influence for the opening of the second Impromptu (it’s Rachmaninoff, in a darker vein). The music moves on, highly atmospherically, to sounds that seem to combine the Eastern with proto-Minimalism. Finally, Jeux de Cordes, played with a mallet on the strings in one hand and on the keyboard with the other (best to be forewarned or else you’ll wonder what’s going on), sounds very much like John Cage in Sonatas and Interludes mode. There’s even the odd knocking or two. This was recorded, standing up, in one take—a remarkable achievement, as anyone who hears the recording will attest. A different piano from the Steinway model D used on the rest of the disc was used. In short, this is a fascinating, involving disc by a multi-faceted musician. The recording is terrific throughout, with plenty of presence. © 2016 Fanfare By: Colin Clarke
Improvisations over Bellman
Niklas Sivelöv Plays Scriabin
Schumann: Solo Piano Pieces
Stenhammar: Piano Concertos 1 & 2
Malmö Symphony Orchestra Conductor: Mario Venzago
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Photo: Lars Strandberg

Photo: Lars Strandberg

Photo: Lars Strandberg

Photo: Lars Strandberg

Photo: Lars Strandberg

Photo: Lars Strandberg