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The Complete Aksel Schiøtz Recordings 1933-1946: vol. 5
Carl Michael BELLMAN (1745-1795)

Fjäriln vingad syns på Haga (1), Ulla, min Ulla (1), Gubben är gammal (2), Järaste bröder (2)
Recorded February 22nd 1940 in Stockholm (1), June 21st 1940 (2)
Birger SJÖBERG (1885-1921)

Den första gång jag såg dig (3), Lilla Paris (3)
Recorded October 30th 1942
Johan Peter Emilius HARTMANN (1805-1900)

Den kiedsom Vinter (4), Jeg synge skal en Vise (4)
Recorded February 21st 1939
Christoph Ernst Friedrich WEYSE (1774-1842)

Eh Skaal for den Mø (5), Willemoes, Kommer hid, I Piger smaa (6), Nu vaagne alle Guds Fugle smaa (7), Bliv hos os naar Dagen hælder (8), Barcarole: Natten er saa stille (9), Fædrelands-Sang: Duftende Enge (10), Lysets Engel gaar med Glans (11), Der staaer et Stot i Vesterled (12), Valentins serenade: Skøn Jomfru, luk dit Vindu op (13), Gud ske Tak og Lov (14), I Fjerne Kirketaarne hist (15), Børnenes Julesang: Julen har bragt (16), Pilgrimssang: Deilig er Jordan (18th Century melody) (17), Et Barn er født i Bethlehem (17th Century melody) (18)
Recorded October 29th 1938 at the Palace Chapel, Copenhagen (16, 17, 18), September 24th 1940 (7, 8, 12, 14), October 5th 1940 (9, 10), October 18th 1940 (13), December 4th 1940 (5, 6), January 28th 1943 (11, 15)
Niels GADE (1817-1890)

Barn Jesus (19)
Franz GRUBER (1787-1863)

Glade Jul (Stille Nacht sung in Danish) (20)
19-20 recorded July 11th 1940 at the Christiansborg Slotkirke
Aksel Schiøtz (tenor), Banjo-Lasse (lute) (1), Jørn Grauengard (guitar) with anonymous cellist (2), Jytte Gorki Schmidt (guitar) (3-4), Male quartet: Knud Vad Thomson, Blicher Hansen, Svend Saabye, Harald Krebs (5), Herman D. Koppel (piano) (5-10, 12-14), Folmer Jensen (piano) (11, 15), Copenhagen Boys’ Choir (16-18), Mogens Wöldike (organ) (19-20)
Locations as above when given; dates as above
Original HMV recordings transferred at the Abbey Road Studios by Andrew Walter

Brief biographical notes on the great Danish tenor Aksel Schiøtz can be found in my review of Vol. 1.

The earlier volumes of this series have reissued all the lieder and oratorio records on which Schiøtz’s fame rests (though Vol. 8 will have a supplementary CD containing a further Dichterliebe which came to light after the planning stage had been completed). The remaining discs are mainly dedicated to Danish (and a few other Scandinavian) composers and will culminate in Vol. 10 which is entirely dedicated to Nielsen. Since this material is very little known outside Denmark, interest obviously shifts from the performances themselves (whose general excellence can surely be taken for granted) to the music.

The CD opens with a group of songs with lute or guitar. Carl Michael Bellman was a Swede who enjoyed the patronage of King Gustavus III (he who was shot in a masked ball). As a poet he was notable for the creation of his alter ego, the poet, lover and drinker Fredman, through whom he depicted the low life of Old Stockholm. As a composer he made frequent recourse to folk melodies and even the tunes that are original (such as the first on the disc) still sound like folk music. Schiøtz recorded again the third and fourth of those found here together with four others in 1946 and these were included in Vol. 3. I commented that I found their charms rather too thin for it to be worth the while of a non-Scandinavian to study the texts and so try to appreciate them. However, the two songs in common make a much better effect here. For one thing, the addition of the cello part enriches them considerably. For another Schiøtz is simply in far better form. The 1946 recordings sounded plausible enough on their own but in comparison the voice sounds free and easy in 1944 where it sounds effortful in 1946. What is puzzling is that, vocal matters apart, Käraste bröder is so much more lively in 1944; in 1946 it had become dolefully heavy. Hearing the earlier recordings left me with a much more favourable impression of the music and I cannot imagine why the singer should have wished to replace them. 1946, and even 1944 for that matter, was perilously close to the operation which practically ended Schiøtz’s career and while he had his good days right till the ended they alternated with more effortful ones.

Though dating from 1922, the two songs from Sjöberg’s Fridas Bok show that the cheery simplicity of Bellman remained a part of Swedish musical thinking, and Danish too, as we see from the two pieces by Hartmann.

The bulk of the disc consists of songs by Christoph Ernst Friedrich Weyse. Though slightly younger than Beethoven, Weyse had no love for that composer’s work and remained faithful to his adored Mozart. His songs, like Mozart’s own, rarely blossom into proto-lieder, they are simple strophic settings with the piano limited to a purely accompanying role. Melodically they are often attractive and Carl Nielsen, in his search for a radical simplicity, felt that the roots of his own Danish musical identity could be traced back to Weyse. The subjects are often religious and the poet most frequently set is Ingemann, though En Skaal for den Mø is a translation of Sheridan’s "Here’s to a maiden of bashful fifteen". Schiøtz for the most part caresses these pieces inimitably into life but I have to say that the two recordings from 1943 are a very poor substitute for his 1939 performances of the same songs. Though in effortful voice, in 1943 he elected for some reason to sing Lysets Engel in the higher key of B flat; it sounds so easy and natural in A flat in 1939. Similarly effortful is the later I fjerne Kirketaarne hist, so it was with much surprise that I found that in this case the earlier recording is sung in the same key. But the tessitura came much more easily to him in 1939.

Schiøtz’s first experiences as a soloist were as part of Mogens Wöldike’s Copenhagen Boys’ Choir and the CD ends with a group of Christmas songs with his old mentor at the organ. The Pilgrimssang turns out to be a well-known Silesian melody found in many Protestant hymn-books and which also has a prominent role in Liszt’s Legend of St. Elizabeth. All this material is worth looking out by choirs and singers searching for unhackneyed Christmas music from around the world, though today I daresay more festively jolly tempi might be preferred. Of Stille Nacht sung in Danish I will only say that it is tastefully done and the original 78 must have given pleasure to countless Danes over the years.

On the whole I feel that the charms of Weyse and the other composers on this disc are more for the domestic Scandinavian market than for world-wide dissemination. But if the idea of fresh simplicity appeals to you, or if you love Nielsen and wish to investigate his roots, you will certainly collect some fine singing along the way.

Christopher Howell

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