release from the Danish label Dacapo is the first recording
of music from Niels Peter Jensen who was a well known composer
in the Danish Golden Age. For many years Jensen’s music has
been almost completely ignored. There’s no entry for him in
the eminent Grove Music Online.
Copenhagen-born Jensen was born in 1802, contracting an eye infection as
a baby and almost losing his eyesight. Aged ten he became blind
and was admitted into the Royal Institute for the Blind where
he was taught to play the flute.
He played flute with the Royal Danish Orchestra aged fifteen and continued
to have lessons from eminent teachers such as August Wilhelm
Hartmann on the organ and music theory from Friedrich Kuhlau.
He secured the post as organist at the Skt. Petri Church which
at the time was ground-breaking employment for a blind man in
an official capacity in Denmark. Jensen became recognised as
a highly respected teacher and his pupils included the composers
Herman Løvenskjold, celebrated for the ballet La Sylphide,
and Johan Peter Emilius Hartmann.
in a wide variety of genres although most of his works are for
the flute. Notable are a flute concerto in A minor (c. 1830),
two flute sonatas, opp. 6, 18, flute fantasias and variations,
flute duets and flute trios. He also wrote ensemble works such
as the Trio for flute, cello and clarinet, the Quintet for flute
and strings and a Trio for flute, violin and viola. A number
of Jensen’s flute works did get published which kept his name
alive for some years. However, in the twentieth-century his
music lay virtually forgotten. Some twenty-five scores were
given opus numbers but to find actual dates for Jensen's music
release comprises four duos for two flutes - demanding works
evincing solid craftsmanship. I note that Jensen composed these
duos mainly in a retrospective Classical style, containing
late-Baroque elements. To assist interest and appeal Jensen
is careful to share some of the principal material in the scores
with the second flute. One notices that the Opp. 4 and 11 sets
contain various similarities. All four scores feature a sonata-form
opening movement, have a slow central movement in ¾ time and
a Rondo finale, yet Jensen gives each duet its own individual
Most from Denmark and Brazilian Marcello Barboza prove outstanding
performers in this repertoire. Most plays a wooden instrument
built by Howell Roberts in 1998 and Barboza a wooden flute by
Philipp Hammig from 1988.
the opening score, a J.S. Bach-like Duo in E minor, Most and
Barboza provide a generally tranquil mood with distinct undercurrents
of sorrow in the opening Allegro and central Adagio.
I especially enjoyed their buoyant playing of the exuberant
and memorable final Rondo.
The mood changes with the sunny and lively D major Duo with
a particularly bright and vivacious opening movement. With such
assured and persuasive playing the highly entertaining Rondo
finale is a joy to hear.
In the attractive Duo in F major the central movement marked
Menuetto moderato is noteworthy as an authentic Minuet
containing a Trio section. I loved the convincing
playing in the exuberant finale Allegro di molto,
a movement cast in sonata-form, that just gushes with high-spirits.
The final work on the disc is the remarkable D minor Duo with
a spectacular final Allegro - a movement marked by an
abundance of contrapuntal writing. Most and Barboza demonstrate
their affinity for the music with a performance that is splendidly
fresh and alive.
A beautifully recorded, performed and presented
release from Dacapo. Jensen’s music deserves further investigation
so I am on the lookout for new releases.