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Classicsonline  Crotchet


Knudage RIISAGER (1897-1974)
Benzin Ė ballet in one act after Robert Storm Petersen, Op. 17 (1928) [42:59] (Overture [4:06]; Pastorale [4:13]; Hostdans [2:32]; Traeskodans [4:09]; Prokuratoren [5:13]; Marcia funebre [1:19]; Fanfare [0:19]; Cykeldans [1:43]; Fiskerdans [2:32]; Ved Benzintanken [2:53]; Rivalerne [6:07]; Forsoningen [2:2]4]; Vaegteren [1:49]; Manen [3:42])
Til Apollon, Lysets Gud (To Apollon. God of Light) (1972) [16:47]
Archaeopteryx, Op. 51 (1949) [10:35]
Danish National Symphony Orchestra/Owain Arwel Hughes
rec. Danish Radio Concert Hall, 1-2 May, 11-16 June 2007. DDD
world premiere recordings
DACAPO 6.220527 [70:23]
Experience Classicsonline

The ballet score Benzin is a neo-classical effort with the flavour of Pulcinella. If Stravinsky dances attendance on one hand then Walter Piston may be seen as a presence on the other; not that Piston could have been an influence. This recording gives us the complete score for the 43 minute ballet. This is not the Riisager of Qarrtsiluni (see review) and the other nature scores. When it's not neo-classical it touches on Prokofievís absurdist phase. The music is precise, concise, lively, cleanly scored with much play made of the woodwind. It also has the air of a very danceable score. The very short Marcia Funebre sounds sinister - a march of the grotesques while Fanfare momentarily connects with de Falla's Tricorne. Forsoningen (12) is a romantic and tenderly limned love-scene with strings offering gentle beguilement. Similarly emotional folksy material appears in the Vaegteren (13). Despite all the signs the piece ends in a sincere romantic glimmering and ringing haze rather than in the cold revels of neo-classicism.
Benzin is to an outline by the Danish humourist Robert Storm Petersen (1882-1949). The story is the usual triumph of the inconsequential. A motorcyclist has run out of petrol (Benzin). He asks for help at a country farm. The young farmerís son volunteers to go to the petrol station with a can to fill up the machine. While he is away the motorcyclist pays court to the farmer's girl. The returning farm boy is furious but peace returns as the motorcyclist exchanges the girl for the can of petrol.
To Apollo, God of Light is from 1972. Its tense rumbling is superbly calculated and weighted. It's a score that confides rather than blathers or hectors. Its slow-cycle shivering figures recall Klami's Kalevala Suite first movement. Discreet woodwind solos suggest a bleakness rather like a step outwards from Nielsen's Pan and Syrinx and Sixth Symphony. Towards its close it rises to rhetorical gesture and then sinks back into the gravitational atmosphere from which it ascended . It was Riisager's last work.
Archaeopteryx refers to the Cretaceous era extinct bird. The gift of this score is in the evocation of primeval sounds and the image of the extinct bird singing its magnificently ugly song looking down on the warm primeval sea. The music is raw with a scouring texture and much use is made of brass and percussion including orchestral piano. The hammering side-drum recalls the Nielsen of the Fifth Symphony.
The indispensable and lucidly expressed notes are by Claus Rollum-Larsen.
Rob Barnett


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