One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,928 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider


paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas
All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Salon Treasures from the Max Jaffa Library



Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom


CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline


Otto MORTENSEN (1907–1986)
From 10 Danish Songs (1940)
1. Danmark, nu blunder den lyse nat (1928)* [2:32]
2. Du danske sommer, jeg elsker dig (1932)* [3:33]
3. Signorina, tag mine roser (1939)** [3:03]
4. Sommerstorm over Ebeltoft (1933)** [2:17]
5. Aftenlandskab (1933)* [2:17]
6. Vårvejr (1933)** [1:08]
7. Tidligt forår (1933)** [0:53]
8. Sommernat (1940)* [3:46]
9. Normandiet (1932-36)* [2:02]
From 10 Songs to Texts by Nordic Poets (1943)
10. Køretur (1938)** [1:27]
11. Til våren (1943)** [2:31]
12. Det eviga (1943)* [4:22]
13. Det regnar (1943)* [1:51]
14. Vinternatt (1943)* [3:47]
15. Det är vackrast när det skymmer (1943)* [2:15]
From Four Songs (1945) and Three Songs (1946)
16. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (1945)* [2:14]
17. Adventures of Isabel (1946)** [3:08]
18. Laugh and be Merry (1946)** [2:39]
From 7 Songs (1951)
19. En sommer over vaeggen (1945)** [3:23]
20. Forsommersang (1951)* [2:48]
21. Mirakler (1948)** [1:55]
22. Bogfinken (1948)* [2:42]
Selected Songs
23. Du gav os de blomster (1937-38)** [3:08]
24. Septembers himmel er så blå (1949)** [2:55]
25. Min skat (1937)** [1:20]
Signe Asmussen (soprano)*; Jacob Naeslund Madsen (tenor)**
Christen Stubbe Teglbjaerg (piano)
rec. Lyngby Kulturhus (Kuhlau Salen) 6, 15-17, 22 February 2008
Texts and English translations enclosed
DACAPO 8.224704 [63:57]


Experience Classicsonline

Copenhagen-born Otto Mortensen may be little known outside Denmark but he is regarded as one of the country’s foremost song composers of the 20th century. He belongs to the same generation as Herman D. Koppel and Vagn Holmboe or, to mention three reasonably well known Swedish composers, Dag Wirén, Lars-Erik Larsson and Gunnar de Frumerie. De Frumerie a particularly relevant comparison since he was also a brilliant composer of songs.

Mortensen’s generation were not die-hard modernists as those colleagues born just before the turn of the century: Riisager and Bentzon and in Sweden Hilding Rosenberg. They were rather drawn to ‘utility music’, in Mortensen’s case Hindemith became a source of inspiration. He went to Charlottenburg in Berlin in the summer of 1930 where Hindemith was teaching and he brought his ideas back to Denmark. He also encountered the music of Kurt Weill and back home he wrote songs in German cabaret style for Lulu Ziegler, whose regular accompanist he was at the beginning of her career. An echo of that can be heard in the song Mirakler (tr. 21), which has a nicely lilting rhythm, faintly reminiscent of Weill’s early style.

Mortensen studied with Hans Eisler and also with Darius Milhaud. His oeuvre encompasses a symphony, some other orchestral works and chamber music but first and foremost he wrote vocal music, including lots of choral music. He is a great favourite with Danish choirs.

The songs on this disc span a period of almost twenty-five years, from the early Danmark, nu blunder den lyse nat (1928) to Forsommersang (1951). He continued composing until the very end but the selection here is possibly from the most creative part of his life. It should be noted that he didn’t always publish his songs immediately but preferred to collect them in thematic groups. Thus the 10 Danish Songs, published in 1940, contain only one song from that year but songs from the entire 1930s as well as the earliest song on this disc, written in 1928.

This song, Danmark, nu blunder den lyse nat (Denmark, the pale summer night now dozes)(tr. 1), and many of the others, is rather simple, strophic and folk-like. They are often melodically agreeable and the majority of them are settings of nature poetry. Among the earliest songs Aftenlandskab (Evening landscape) (tr. 5), Sommernat (Summer night) (tr. 8) and Normandiet (Normandy) (tr. 9) are especially attractive. The humorous Tidligt forår (Early spring)(tr. 7) is perhaps even fresher and more personal.

Yet more personal are some of the 10 Songs to Texts by Nordic Poets. Køretur (A drive) (tr. 10) has similarities to Verdi’s Stornello, especially the rhythmic accompaniment. In the setting of Ragnar Jändel’s Det regnar (It rains) (tr. 13) one hears the rain incessantly in the piano, and though Gustaf Fröding’s Vinternatt (Winter night) (tr. 14) doesn’t specifically say so it seems that those who are moving through the winter night are in fact skiing; one can hear the ski-sticks being regularly put down. I am less convinced about the setting of Esaias Tegnér’s powerful Det eviga (The eternal) (tr. 12). This is one of the central poems in Swedish 19th century literature and I miss the nobility, the solemnity. Maybe a more substantial voice, preferably a bass-baritone, would have given added weight, but I doubt that it would have been enough. Likewise the setting of Nobel Prize Winner Pär Lagerkvist’s Det är vackrast när det skymmer (It is never more beautiful than at dusk) (tr. 15) feels bland when compared to Gunnar de Frumerie’s version.

The undoubtedly best songs on the disc are those composed in the mid-1940s for the American soprano Anne Brown, the first Bess in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. When the war was over she visited Copenhagen to sing the role at Det Kongelige Teater. Since Otto Mortensen was repetiteur at the theatre he got to know her and she added some of the songs to her repertoire. The setting of Ogden Nash’s Adventures of Isabel (tr. 17) is really congenial in its shifting moods and burlesque humour. So is John Masefield’s grandiloquent Laugh and be merry (tr. 18) but like Det eviga it would have benefited from a grander voice. Jakob Naeslund Madsen does what he can but his lyric tenor is at least one size too small for the song and he has to resort to shouting and pressing the voice beyond its limits.

The songs From 7 Songs (1951) (trs. 19-22) are all excellent with an extra plus for Mirakler (tr. 21), which should be a perfect encore to any song recital with Nordic songs.

The last three songs were never issued in any collection but they belong to Mortensen’s best known and have been published in a lot of songbooks. They are again simple and natural, somewhat in the vein of Carl Nielsen’s best songs in the folksy mould.

The singers are truly committed in their singing. Signe Asmussen has a special flair for the lyrical and more inward pieces and is very sensitive to nuance though occasionally unsteady. Jakob Maeslund Madsen is best suited to the livelier songs and is expressive and enthusiastic, even though his tone tends to be strident. Christen Stubbe Teglbjaerg’s accompaniments cannot be faulted and the recorded sound is excellent.

Though Mortensen may not be in the same league as Nielsen, Grieg, Sibelius and Rangström, to mention four Nordic song composers of international stature, he has a great deal to offer and the English settings are masterly. A largely attractive acquaintance.

Göran Forsling 



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

Eloquence recordings
All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

July 2022

John Luther Adams Houses of the Wind
John Luther Adams
Houses of the Wind

Horneman Alladin
Horneman Alladin

Stojowski piano concertos
Piano Concertos 1 & 2

Vaughan Williams on Brass

Yi Lin Jiang - Dualis I

June 2022

Beethoven Sonatas 29, 32

Orchestral Works

String Quartets Vol 1





Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.