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Peter Erasmus LANGE-MÜLLER (1850-1926)
Once upon a Time Op.25 - extracts (1887) [43:21]
Renaissance Op.59 - extracts (1901) [9:16]
Songs by the Sea Op.54 (no date) [5:17]
Late on a night so cold Op.64 (unpublished) World premiere recording [1:57]
Viking Blood Op.50 - extracts (1900) [8:01] World premiere recording of the overture
Susanne Elmark, soprano
Michael Kristensen, tenor
Johan Reuter, baritone
Coro Misto
Aalborg Symphony Orchestra/Moshe Atzmon
rec. December 2000 and December 2004, Aalborghallen, Aalborg, Denmark. DDD
BIS-CD-1214 [69:01]

Technical matters first. This is a lovely clean and Ďpresentí recording in all respects, BISís high standards are maintained. One feels as if one is in the Aalborg Hall about six or seven rows back. Well done the engineers Ė again.

According to Grove "Lange-Müller was a Romantic by temperament and artistic inclination. His style was strongly influenced by the music of his countrymen Hartmann and Heise and by that of Schumann, but he evolved an individual late-Romantic style built around emotionally concentrated tonal effects on a dark harmonic background, reminiscent of Brahms and contemporary French developments." An opinion I note because this CD may not represent this more serious side and perhaps much more is to be discovered. Is BIS perhaps planning to record the Symphonies or the Violin Concerto?

The prelude to Once upon a time is very easy and tuneful, played, like all these pieces, with great accomplishment by the excellent Aalborg orchestra. The appeal to Nielsen mentioned at length in the excellent commentary is easy to hear. The same homespun cheerfulness is to be found in many of Nielsenís own folk-song settings. Though the next item is entitled Gypsy Music it is essentially more of the same. The attractive serenade for tenor solo and chorus shows the Coro Misto to be somewhat sparsely populated and a similar characteristic afflicts the following aria for soprano solo and chorus. Here Susanne Elmark seems to me not wholly stable. The refreshing aspect of this aria is the anachronistic presence of a harpsichord accompaniment. The hunting music, and indeed much of this set of extracts, is a bit like Gilbert and Sullivan without the acid wit, but so attractive that it really belongs in the regular repertoire of programmes like Friday night is music night on BBC Radio Two. No horses will be frightened by Lange-Müller. The waltz goes a bit more off the rails but never to the delicious extent of H. C. Lumbye whose inspiration is always stronger. By the end of this set of extracts I was left wondering a little at Nielsenís comments about Lange-Mullerís Ďstrangely glowing halo which will remain (with me) for as long as I liveí. I assume he admired his gift for simple melody or was perhaps familiar with other more serious works not present on this recording. The lively overture to Renaissance soon relaxes into more of the same. It is not until we reach the two Sea Songs and the Flemish folk-song setting Late on a night so cold that a more powerful image emerges. These are less sweet and all the better for it. The gently martial character of the two extracts from Viking Blood had me thinking of inappropriately Pythonesque Vikings! The failure of this opera apparently caused him such distress that he almost abandoned composition for the last twenty years of his life. He died in 1926 just five years before his (much greater) young contemporary Nielsen.

BIS is to be congratulated on filling an interesting gap in international knowledge of the late 19th century Danish repertoire. Recordings of Lange-Müllerís music do seem to be available on the Kontrapunkt and Da Capo labels. Interested readers should search the ínet.

Dave Billinge

see also choral music

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