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Emil REESEN (1887-1964)
Grønlandsk Folketone (1934) [6.56]
Polkina Fra Gudindernes
Strid (1933) [2.53]
Trianon, Suite I Gammel Stil (1941)
Variationer over et tema af Fr. Schubert (1928)
Agnether Og Havmanden (1929]
Jeg Gik Mig Ud
en Sommerdag (1929) [2.43]
Gaucho-Suite (1931) [7.03]
(1925) [13.24]; Festmarch (1937) [3.41]
Symphony Orchestra/Bo Holten
rec. Symfonien, Aalborg, 12-16 June 2006.
I must admit to having felt somewhat
embarrassed when I received this CD.
Here was a composer of whom I had never
heard. On reading the back of the cardboard
case I felt even more embarrassed. Reesen
was a contemporary of Nielsen but there
is very little common ground between
them except that the latter was not
averse to some successful light music
at times. I will quote from the essay
“Reesen was a jack-of-all trades, composing
everything from film melodies to operettas
and ballets for the Royal Theatre, and
it was all typified by his masterly
craftsmanship and great melodic talent.”
The music on this CD demonstrates all
of the above-mentioned skills across
many differing genres.
The Grønlandsk Folketone (Greenland
Folk Poem) is a lovely and thoughtful
little tone poem to start the disc off.
It is played with real affection and
sensitivity. Then there’s the little,
fun Polka from a very successful ballet.
It was resurrected for a guest appearance
the composer made with the orchestra
of the Norddeutscher Rundfunk. We are
reminded that Reesen was associated
with Danish ballet for much of his life.
The Trianon ( a private residence
for the royal family set in the the
park of Versailles palace) Suite
consists of three movements, all
in a quasi-neo-classical style of great
charm. This blends baroque with a sort
of merry minstrelsy.
The disc moves on swiftly to the Variations
on a rather obscure theme of Schubert,
the longest and most ambitious work
on the disc, It is apparently the most
ambitious piece that Reesen composed.
The theme is from a little known work
with the catchy title ‘Divertissement
sur des motifs originaux français’
D823: scored for four hands at one piano.
It’s a simple and delightful melody
and well chosen by Reesen as it has
some memorable sequential patterning.
It is treated to every possible type
of variation technique.
Rather less consequential but very tuneful
are the two little pieces ‘Agnethe
og Havmanden’ (Agnethe and the
mermaid). This has a gorgeously
glittering beginning with its sul
ponticello and muted strings. Then
there’s ‘Jeg Gik Mig ud en Sommerdag’
(I walked out on a summer’s day).
Both use Danish folk melodies which
are here orchestrated with originality
The Gaucho Suite falls into three
dance-type movements including an opening
Pasodouble and a Tango.
It is light music certainly but none
the worse for that. It is in fact ballet
music, apparently a very successful
cowboy ballet, this was yet another
of Reesen’s skills and musical adventures.
The symphonic poem Himmerland
(Homeland) is my favourite work
of the ones offered here. It is effectively
a Danish rhapsody, to possibly counteract
those by Alfvén and Holst. It has become
his most performed composition although
like all of his music it has never managed
to leap the North Sea. In using traditional
melodies in a sort of medley Reesen
does nothing original but his orchestration
and structuring is fascinating and rewards
Before mentioning the last work on the
disc I must add what a fine recording
this is and how affectionately the individual
works are handled by orchestra and Bo
Holten alike. If you have only thought
of him as a choral conductor - vis-a-vis
the BBC Singers - then like me, you
will find the dedicated way he has tackled
these works a revelation. This is not
least in the last piece, the happy little
‘Fest March’ a joyous and appropriate
ending to an excellently planned programme
which could be played through without
a break. What manner of composer can
encompass all of these moods and write
for fun as well as for erudition. The
answer is an extremely talented and
professional one. This march is described
in the booklet as a ‘Royal March’ and
the best Danish march ever.
There’s an excellent essay by Jens Cornelius
on the life of Emil Reesen. It is colourfully
written and is supplemented with a portrait
photograph. Cornelius adds a detailed
but not too technical essay on the featured
works. They are not however discussed
in the order recorded, and for this
reason the notes are a little difficult
to navigate.. Finally there is some
thoughtful background notes on the performers.
As you will have gathered I have been
especially pleased and surprised by
Emil Reesen. He’s my kind of composer
- imaginative, versatile, highly professional
in many fields, able to write music
for the ‘common man’ and able to write
wonderfully for orchestral musicians
to enjoy. My only reservation, on this
showing, is that he never quite stretches
himself into bigger forms. He does experiment
but it’s limited by his over-willingness
to take the easy option: structurally,
technically and imaginatively. Nevertheless,
the music heard here is superbly played
in a warm acoustic and most enjoyable
for all listeners.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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