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Hans Christian LUMBYE (1810-1874)
Complete Orchestral Works Vol. 9: Prince of Wales, Galop; Alexandra Waltz; The St. Petersburg lady, Polka, from the suite Memories of St. Petersburg; St. Petersburg Champagne Galop, from the suite Memories of St. Petersburg; Rosalie Polka, from the suite Memories of St. Petersburg; A Promenade on the Deer Park Hill, Galopade; Grand Duke Alexander March; Dream Pictures, Fantasia; Sylphide Waltz; Grand Duke Alexander March; Souvenir of Peterhof, March; Northern Lights Waltz; Blanche Polka; Danube Flowers, Quadrille; Manoeuvre Galop
Tivoli Symphony Orchestra/David Riddell
Recorded in the Concert Hall, Tivoli, Denmark, in Summer 2001 DDD
MARCO POLO 8.225264 [67:24]

This is an excellent selection of polkas, gallops, waltzes, marches a quadrille and a fantasia from the pen of popular nineteenth century Danish composer Hans Christian Lumbye, often referred to as ‘The Nordic Strauss’. The quality of the music more than justifies Marco Polo’s confidence in presenting the composer in this ninth volume of their continuing series.

Lumbye, so celebrated in his day for his popular orchestral dance music, had a background as an orchestral trumpeter in a provincial regimental band. He progressed to earn his living as a professional orchestral musician. Inspired by a concert given in Copenhagen of dance music from composers such as Johann Strauss and Joseph Lanner, Lumbye formed his own orchestra in 1840, becoming their conductor and musical director. Only three years later the now world-famous Tivoli amusement park opened its doors in Copenhagen. Lumbye was appointed the conductor and effectively ‘composer-in-residence’ of the Tivoli’s concert hall orchestra. For this orchestra he composed a massive number of around seven hundred works, mainly polkas, marches and gallops, becoming Scandinavia’s best-known dance composer. In addition he wrote numerous orchestral fantasies, tone-poems and ballet-divertissements. He was clearly a more versatile composer than his reputation would at first suggest.

I gained considerable pleasure from this collection. Lumbye’s writing is exceedingly entertaining with strings often accompanied by flutes rather than heavier woodwind, giving a distinctive light and bright sound. It is not difficult to imagine couples in their tails and ball-gowns, dancing the night away at the Tivoli on a balmy summer’s evening. Lumbye seemed to have an obsession for things royal and aristocratic. I particularly enjoyed the Prince of Wales, Galop (track 1) with its references to the Scottish folksong, ‘Charlie is my darling’ and also the Alexandra Waltz named after the HRH Princess Alexandra of Denmark. This latter incorporates short quotations from both the Danish national anthem and ‘God Save the Queen’. Lumbye’s frequent musical dedications to regal figures of the day must certainly have raised his profile in the best circles (a case of nineteenth century self-marketing perhaps!). The Grand Duke Alexander March (track 7) is a fine example of a tuneful and appealing march. Following a concert tour to Russia with his orchestra, Lumbye began a fascination with the Royal Family of Imperial Russia. This became almost a fixation. The admirable Souvenir of Peterhof, March (track 10), which the composer wrote in honour of his visit to Peterhof Castle near St. Petersburg, is dedicated to the Emperor of Imperial Russia. It is notable for its festive and sonorous character.

The booklet notes offer a very accurate and most perceptive description of Lumbye at his best: these works "have a distinctive, lyrical, almost pristine Copenhagen sound that differs from the Vienna composers’ more hot-blooded orchestral tone." Throughout the programme the Tivoli Symphony Orchestra under the direction of conductor David Riddell play with great fervour, giving a endearing and amiable performances. There are one or two rough edges but the enthusiasm and long-tradition of these players in Lumbye’s music more than make up for any minor limitations. I found the shorter works, of around two to three minutes, the more successful and certainly more effective in sustaining interest. His longer works seem at times to be a little bit too much of the same; too much of a good thing in fact.

The copious booklet notes by Knud Arne Jürgensen, translated by James Manley and Geoffrey Chew are superb, most interesting and informative and a model for all record companies to follow. The sound quality from Marco Polo is first-class.

There are many rewards from this recording and Lumbye certainly deserves to be known by a wider audience.

Michael Cookson

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