Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

Danish Romantic A Capella
Christian BARNEKOW
(1837 - 1913)
Seks sange, op 17 (six songs) [17.35]
Frederik RUNG
(1854 - 1914)
Fünf-und sechsstimmige Lieder (Five and Six-part Songs) [10.52]
(1843 - 1917)
Seks firstemmige sange (Six Four-part Songs) [11.41]
(1848 - 1915)
Tre sange, op.83 (Three Somgs) [8.21]

Canzone Choir Frans Rasmussen
Recorded Sorgenfri Kirke March 1999 DDD
dacapo 8.224130 [63.25]

This CD of Danish Romantic a capella singing comes, understandably enough, from a Danish Record Label - dacapo (it's not me, they do use lower case lettering for their name). The notes with the recording are comprehensive and detailed and I am indebted to them for much of the information about the disc's contents and background.

It seems that a capella singing for mixed choirs in Denmark - there had, as elsewhere, been a small tradition of students singing all-male polyphony - appeared in the middle of the nineteenth century, led mainly by the compositions of Niels W. Gade. Then in 1851 the composer Henrik Rung founded The Cecilia Society inspired by Palestrina and the example of his magnificence, but he and his contemporaries were quite unable to emulate their mentor. These two events in the chain meant that the composers featured in this recording (all born between 1837 -1854) had an ongoing tradition of mixed choirs a capella when they began to compose.

The singing is mostly in four parts, with a few songs written for five and six parts that use female voices to create the extra voice. The Canzone Choir sings throughout and is flawless. The polyphony in the songs is clear and precise and the lines never blur. The booklet has the words in full, in Danish, English and German - all the Jakob Fabricius songs are in German. Sadly, no matter how well the songs are sung and how good the recording is, the material does not carry sufficient weight and variety to retain the interest. With a couple of exceptions the songs are one-paced - not slow, not quick - a number have chosen to set very ordinary words, and any changes in style between the composers are (relatively) slight. A Danish listener might well find them fascinating - but at least one person in the UK failed to find them so. Certainly it is not the type of record to listen to from beginning to end.

It gives me no pleasure to write this, as the production is an excellent one, and I would like to hear the choir with different material.


Harry Downey

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