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The Complete Aksel Schiøtz Recordings 1933-1946: vol. 6
Henrik RUNG (1807-1871)

I Danmark er jeg født (1), Gurre, Hvor Nilen vander (2), Modersmaalet (3), Jeg gik mig du en Sommerdag at høre (Danish-Swedish folk-tune)
Recorded February 14th 1938 (1),October 5th 1940 (2), May 22nd 1942 (3, 4)
Johan Peter Emilius HARTMANN (1805-1900)

Flyv Fugl, flyv over Furesøens Vove (5), Folmer Ganger (6), Til de Faldne (7), Lær mig, Nattens Stjerne (8), Liden Kirsten: Sverkel’s Romance (9), The Dice Duet (10)
Recorded June 8th 1940 (5), August 24th 1939 (6), May 23rd 1946 (7), October 18th 1940 (8), May 1st 1939 (9), 27th December 1939 (10),
Anonymous ed. Thomas LAUB and Axel OLRIK

Four Medieval Ballads (11)
Recorded March 13th 1942
Niels GADE (1817-1890)

Knud Lavard (12), Polsk Fædrelandssang (13), Elverskud: Oluf’s Ballad, Morning Chorus (14)
Recorded November 23rd 1939 (12, 13), May 1st 1939 (14)
Christoph Ernst Friedrich WEYSE (1774-1842) arr. Emil Reesen

Soundtrack excerpts from the film "Jeg har elsket og levet" (15): Gud ske Tak og Lov, Kommer hid, I Piger smaa, Retfæd og Frihed, Der staaer et Slot, Natten er saa stille, Skøn Jomfru
Nordisk Film 1940
Friedrich KUHLAU (1786-1832), ed. and arr.

King Christian (the Danish National Anthem) (16)
Recorded October 25th 1944
H. E. KRØYER (1799-1879)

Der er et yndigt Land (17)
Recorded December 3rd 1940
Aksel Schiøtz (tenor), Chr. Christiansen (piano) (1), Herman D. Koppel (piano) (2, 5-8, 15-16), Grete Kordt (piano) (3-4) with anonymous chorus (4), Orchestra of Det Unge Tonekunstnerselskab/Mogens Wöldike (9, 14) with Copenhagen Boys’ and Male Choir (14), Edith Oldrup (soprano) (10, 15), Royal Orchestra, Copenhagen/Johan Hye-Knudsen (10, 16-17), Chorus (11), Ellen Gottschalk (speaker) (15), Members of the Royal Orchestra, Copenhagen/Emil Reesen
Locations (presumably Danish) not given; dates as above
Original HMV recordings (except 15) 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.

Vol. 5 in this invaluable series was largely dedicated to Christoph Ernst Friedrich Weyse, whose simple folk-like charms mark the beginning of a development in Danish music which was to culminate in Carl Nielsen. Vol. 6 has some further Weyse material in the form of extracts from a 1940 film. The simple accompaniments have been orchestrated (only Kommer hid retains its piano accompaniment), but quite delicately and tastefully. The booklet itself points out that better recorded and completer versions of these songs (except the brief Retfærd og Frihed) are to be found elsewhere. Still, though the sound quality is inferior to that of contemporary discs, it is generally not too bad and the omission of some verses of these strophic songs will be a matter of great concern only to Danish listeners. Schiøtz completists will like to know that he is in fine voice throughout, and should also be warned that Der staaer et Slot is sung not by Schiøtz but, very sweetly, by the soprano Edith Oldrup. Included also is a spot of dialogue in which we hear Schiøtz’s speaking voice.

Schiøtz’s Nielsen recordings will be grouped together in Vol. 10. In the meantime the roughly chronological survey moves into the romantic era. Truth to tell, we would hardly guess this from the work of Henrik Rung which, in so far as one can judge from four items, follows in the footsteps of Weyse. Most attractive is the folksong arrangement, which also makes effective use of a chorus.

Hartmann is clearly a more important figure. While retaining the simplicity of Weyse and while not forsaking the basically strophic form (but in the last stanza of Lær mig the vocal line is memorably altered) there are little touches in the accompaniments to suggest that a real composer is at work. Lær mig had already attracted my attention in the 1938 recording included in Vol. 4 but this 1940 version is absolutely the one to have, in spite of inferior sound quality. While Koppel in 1938 insisted on a brisk, "let’s get on with it" approach (were they compelled to squeeze the song onto a 10" side?) here he is highly poetic and gives the piece, now revealed as a gem, all the space it needs to expand (03:04 against 02:42). This song really deserves to be taken up by singers outside Denmark. Vol. 4 also contained a 1941 remake of Sverkel’s Romance. In this case there seems little to choose except that the voice is better caught in 1941 at the expense of a more recessed orchestra. We also have Schiøtz’s understandably heartfelt singing in 1946 of "To the fallen". The greater presence of the voice compared to the earlier recordings is immediately striking but unfortunately the engineers overestimated the capacities of their microphone and considerable distortion follows. So what seems initially one of the best recordings turns out to be one of the worst of the lot.

The gentle romanticism of Hartmann is one side of Danish music. The austere, heroic-bardic side, the side that looks North of the Baltic rather than southwards, is to be found in the Four Medieval Ballads. Not especially interesting in themselves – Schiøtz sings mostly unaccompanied with occasional interjections from the unaccompanied chorus – they make a fine introduction to the Gade items in which the bardic tone is strongly felt. Coming at this point in the programme one can only be impressed by the strength of Gade’s invention, and Knud Lavard, in particular, has a quite elaborate and masterly piano part. Altogether I was left distinctly curious as to what else Gade’s song output may contain – as far as I am aware not even Danacord have dedicated an entire disc to his songs as yet.

There was some hope at the time that Elverskud might be recorded complete. The two extracts here are all that came of it. A pity since it is apparent that an Elverskud under Wöldike would have been a much more urgent affair than the sleepy version under Hye-Knudsen which was available on a Turnabout LP in the 1970s. Another oddity is that the part of Oluf was sung in the later version by a baritone, Ib Hansen. Since the tessitura lies between C and F it is not beyond the reach of either voice, but it sounds more natural from a tenor, or at least it does when the tenor is Aksel Schiøtz and the baritone is the sensitive but not entirely firm-voiced Ib Hansen. We do not actually hear Schiøtz in the Morning Chorus but fans may like to know that he was there nonetheless; having sung his solo he took his place back in the chorus where he had received his early training, under the conductor who remained his mentor.

The CD concludes with the Danish National Anthem and another piece in patriotic vein for which I can do no better than quote Arne Helman’s interesting, informative and often entertaining notes. "It was bad luck that [Oehlenschläger’s] noble, simple lines fell into the hands of a bad composer who had no idea how to fit ‘Ton und Wort’. The important word in the first line is ‘graceful’. So what does the illiterate composer do? He puts his accents on ‘is’ and ‘country’! Gerd Schiøtz [the singer’s widow] told me that Aksel Schiøtz would sometimes, for party entertainment, make a hilarious parody of Krøyer’s tune. Unfortunately this recording is straight. But it comes last on the CD so that the listener need not hear it more than once. The tune has been adopted by Danish soccer spectators, probably because it roars rather well."

In spite of the age of these recordings – which still sound well if you are not dependent on digital sound – no fuller anthology of Danish song seems to have been attempted since. The case for investigating Hartmann and Gade is, on this showing, a strong one; in the meantime those who wish to follow the development from Weyse through to Nielsen can be directed to this series, safe in the knowledge that any subsequent recordings, however superior technically, are unlikely to be more beautifully sung.

Christopher Howell

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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