Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Ludolf NIELSEN (1876-1939)
Babelstarnet, Op. 35 (The Tower of Babel) (1912-14)
Skovvandring, Op. 40 (Forest Walk) (1922)

 Iréne Theorin (sop) - Voice of a bird
Johnny van Hal (ten) - tenor solo
Per Høyer (bar) - Human Voice
Danish National Radio SO/Owain Arwel Hughes
co-production with Danmarks Radio
rec 1-3 Oct 1999, Danish Radio Concert Hall, Copenhagen
DACAPO 8.224157 [63.05] DDD
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Almost contemporary with his more famous namesake Carl Nielsen, the younger (by 10 years) Ludolf was also a country boy made good, educated at the Academy of Music, played in the Tivoli Orchestra, and established his own string quartet. He then won a scholarship to study in Leipzig where he resided for two years. Whilst in Leipzig he made contact with the music publishers Breitkopf and Härtel who he persuaded to publish his two string quartets. Upon his return to Copenhagen he established himself as composer and teacher and then spent the rest of his life like this. Towards the end of his life he was employed by Danish Radio and he there composed incidental music for plays etc. He died at the age of 63.

His symphonic poem The Tower of Babel is more an oratorio rather than a tone poem, using as it does a large choir and orchestra with soloists, based upon the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis Chapter 11. Working with the poet Gyrithe Lemch he developed the story, adding to it to produce the idea that mankind may be saved by the power of the spirit. With these high minded thoughts and the fact that other Danish composers such as Langgaard and Glass held similar ideas and were trying to work these out through their music, the start of the First World War, which coincided with Nielsen's completion of The Tower of Babel, must have come as a rude awakening.

More conservative than his slightly older namesake, the music is not compromised by this. The Tower of Babel is an extremely attractive and dynamic work, and has a sweep about it which truly enhances its overpoweringly triumphant conclusion. The forces are organised conventionally apart from a group of male voices and brass instruments set aside from the main forces to represent the voice of God makes for a very impressive sound picture.

The singers, mainly natural Danish speaking artists, all currently performing at the Royal Danish Opera. The voices blend beautifully and all sing with passion and commitment and the interplay between choir and soloists is first class.

The second work on the disc (Forest Walk) is purely orchestral, is in five sections and is based upon scenes from Greek Mythology. The first scene is based upon Echo and Narcissus, the second, Pan Walks the Forest. The third scene is called The Death of the Dryad, the fourth By the Elf Marsh and the final scene Towards Daybreak.

The style of the work is inspired by French impressionist writing such as Debussy's L'apres midi, Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe, plus other Scandinavian works of the time such as Sibelius's Pan and Echo, Launy Grøndahl's Pan and Syrinx, Carl Nielsen's Pan and Syrinx, C.F.E. Horneman's The Contest with the Muses as well as others. I liked it very much and can recommend it warmly to you.

The playing of the orchestra, Denmark's premiere ensemble is everything which one would expect, and the recording, made in the orchestra's home is clear and very true. The recording has been made by Dacapo in conjunction with Danish Radio and it is hoped that there will be more of this repertoire recorded for our pleasure.

John Phillips

See also Review by Rob Barnett

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