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Thomas Jensen conducts Scandinavian Classics
Johan Peter Emilius HARTMANN (1805-1900)

Thrymskviden: Triumphal March of the Nordic Gods (1)
Niels GADE (1817-1890)

Echoes of Ossian, op. 1 (2)
Johan SVENDSEN (1840-1911)

Romance, op. 26 (3)
Fini HENRIQUES (1867-1940)

Voelund the Smith: Prelude (4)
Peter Erasmus LANGE-MÜLLER (1850-1926)

Renaissance: Prelude (5)
Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)

Little Suite for Strings, op. 1 (6), Helios, overture, op. 17 (7), The Mother: March (8), Saul and David: Act 2 Prelude (9)
Jan SIBELIUS (1865-1957)

Finlandia, op. 26 (10), Valse triste, op. 44/1 (11), Valse lyrique, op. 98a (12)
Finn HØFFDING (1899-1997)

"It is perfectly true" – Symphonic Fantasy after Andersen (13)
Svend Erik TARP (1908-1994)

Mosaik – Miniature Suite (14)
Knudåge RIISAGER (1897-1974)

Little Overture for Strings (15), Concertino for Trumpet and Strings (16), Twelve by the Mail-coach, Ballet: January, May, August, October (17), Paradise of Fools – Suite (18), Two Beggar-pupils’ Songs (19), On the Occasion of – (20)
Carlo Andersen (violin) (3), George Eskdale (trumpet) (16), Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra (1, 2, 3, 18, 19, 20), Danish State Radio Orchestra (15, 16), Royal [Danish] Orchestra (6, 7, 8), Tivoli Concert Hall Orchestra (4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17)/Thomas Jensen
Recorded in Copenhagen, 8th September 1937 (18), 7th July 1938 (19, 20), August 31st 1939 (3), January 31st & February 22nd 1941 (6), Summer 1942 (1, 2, 7, 8), July 2nd 1942 (9, 10), 7th-8th September 1942 (5), 7th & 9th September 1942 (14), 24th-25th January 1945 (17), 23rd June 1947 (11, 13), 4th September 1947 (12), 7th September 1948 (4), 27th-28th January 1949 (15, 16)
DANACORD DACOCD 523-524 [2 CDs: 71’37"+72’05"]


Danacord have done well to restore these recordings made between 1937 and 1949 to the catalogue. Alongside other material now available we have a corpus of Jensen at our disposal and to our advantage. Nielsen famously taught the cellist-turned-conductor musical theory and Jensen’s "provincial" recordings with the Aarhus Civic Orchestra were in fact the first recordings made in the country outside Copenhagen (they’re also available on Danacord and have been reviewed on this site). But he also recorded concurrently with the Copenhagen Philharmonic and the Tivoli Concert Hall orchestras and this double set investigates the sometimes unusual byways that Odeon, Tono and HMV explored during those years.

Hartmann’s March has its more-than-hints of Wagner and its rather (not unattractive) four-squareness seems constantly to want to break into Die Meistersinger. By contrast Gade’s pensive romanticism with its Bardic harp and veiled inner voicings is a slice of Nordic mythology less grandiose than Hartmann’s avuncular muscularity. The more trumpet-led ascents have their own power though and the noble lyricism emerges as naturally as a mountaintop through cumulus. Collectors of violin records will have found it impossible to avoid Carlo Andersen’s Svendsen Romance. His small, sweet concentrated tone has proved durable these many years and it’s right and fitting that he should be enshrined in this set, not least because the only other piece recorded by the leader of the Copenhagen Orchestra was Lumbye’s Concert Polka (he actually recorded it twice). It’s also slightly unusual – very unusual at the time – to find it accompanied by full orchestra, the piano reduction generally being the preferred sweetmeat arrangement. Fini Henriques was another noted fiddle player (and a pianist - and he recorded as both over the years) as well as a composer of essentially frothy stuff. I liked his grandiloquent prelude to Voelund the Smith. Blustery, bustly mill evocations give way to some implacable anvil declamation in very un-Henriques fashion (or so one has been led to think) before love music surges through the score and some brass-flecked passion (slightly immobile if we’re being picky) closes the prelude. There’s a splendid orchestral diminuendo at that point – full marks to Jensen. A rather noble brass melody threads through the violin ostinati of Lange-Müller’s Renaissance but when we get to Nielsen we find Jensen and the orchestra on, if anything, even more idiomatic ground. The Little Suite is variously pensive and well sprung, with the teasing little intermezzo waltz and its fluttering woodwind. There is real metrical flexibility and freedom in the Finale and lashings of freshness. The balance sounds a little askew in Helios with the horns overpowering the string line but in turn themselves overpowered but there’s still a rather glorious sense of continuum in this performance with the fugato section full of drive and fire and rapacious wit; structurally too the allegro section is well integrated into the fabric of the score, unusually so in fact. The brass have their head in Saul and David – but sensitive dynamics are observed and the pace is just.

The second disc is unflaggingly successful. Finlandia is splendidly sonorous and idiomatic – a "Son of Kajanus" stamp of authenticity writ all over the performance. In Høffding’s It is Perfectly true! with its frisky fugato and pert neo-classicism cut rhythmically from The Rite of Spring Jensen proves himself an adept in matters of finesse and timing. And I was delighted to find Tarp’s Mosaik Suite here, glinting and humorous miniatures written in the dark days of 1940. The Tivoli Orchestra were pretty much masters of this kind of repertoire and so they prove here – imitations of folk fiddle and bagpipe, rusticity and nobility rubbing shoulders. Riisager’s Little Overture is a bustling and sprightly piece with strong fugal pretensions but also with a clean limbed neo-classicism that I find very attractive, as I do his rather more celebrated Concertino for Trumpet played with total poise by one of the greatest of all British trumpeters, George Eskdale. His tone is magnificent in its resonance and beauty across the scale and he deals with the Concertino’s teasing neo-baroquerie in the opening Allegro with surety. He is quietly affecting in the Andantino and deals with the Three Blind Mice rondo finale and its lithe, slithering strings and buoyant rhythms with winning panache; listen to his very subtle insistencies of line – wonderful. Twelve by the Mail Coach (excerpts from the ballet) is jaunty and imaginatively written with a sturdy rather Handelian third movement with bucolic hints; I enjoyed the Paradise of Fools suite – with the fun part for trumpet in the Departure second movement – and also the hyper romance of the excerpt from Princess Sukkergodt. But Riisager could certainly do humour and the gloriously lumpen and pompous Procession of the Gluttons from Ædedolkenes Procession is a riot. The set ends with Paul and his chickens – with its wicked insinuation of Twinkle twinkle little star.

Another thoroughly recommendable set from Danacord – and even more to the point enjoyably so. The performances are idiomatic and engaging and full of colour and Jensen proves himself yet again, for a new generation, a taut but feeling master of the native repertoire.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Chris Howell

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