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Leif KAYSER (1919-2001)
Symphony No. 1 (1937-38) [16:16]
Symphony No. 4 (1945-63) [52:37]
Aalborg Symphony Orchestra/Matthias Aeschbacher
rec. Aalborghallen, 23-27 June 2008. DDD
DACAPO 8.224709 [69:04]
Experience Classicsonline

I am not sure what happened to volume 1 (8.224708) but this disc serves to introduce me to Leif Kayser. He studied with Poul Schierbeck, Hilding Rosenberg and the conductor Tor Mann. Among his works are four symphonies (1938, 1940, 1943-53, 1945-63), Christmas Oratorio (1943-47), Te Deum (1946-53), four orchestral suites (1956-73), Requiem (1955-58), Concerto (1965) and Church Panes (1975). Having studied for the priesthood in Rome from 1942 he became a catholic priest at a church in Copenhagen in 1949 but was released from his vows in 1964.

The First Symphony is a concise romantic work with a rising and surging insistence. The silvery perfection of his string writing recalls Respighi in the Concerto Gregoriano. The four movement Fourth Symphony was a long time in the making. The first movement is by turns sturdy and dignified and then lightly fugal. There is a racing Molto Vivace with memorable brass fanfares and quick joyous writing for the strings (tr.3 1:20). The last two movements are very substantial: 20:37 and 17:11 as against the first two: 8:40; 6:02. The Lento is a dark and serious affair shackled in soulful tones to the matte lower range of the orchestra. The finale includes many solo episodes and the music is couched in a pastoral contemplative style with some moments rather like Nielsen and Vaughan Williams especially at the start. These are punctuated by some wonderfully empowered hammer-impact chords redolent of Jon Leifs (at 4:20). Some of the surging writing for strings reminded me of Hindemith's Mathis der Maler symphony and at 14:37 the cresting climaxes of the vintage Roy Harris symphonies. At the peak (16:10) it is as if Kayser is exultantly referencing Nielsen's Fifth Symphony. Thus Kayser’s final symphony written at the age of 47.

The recordings of both works are an object lesson in naturalism and immediacy - not always easy bedfellows.

Rob Barnett


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