This has a ‘stamp of quality’ feel to it. One looks
at the programme, mostly of little known stage works, at the
orchestra, at the two conductors, and at Danacord’s proven
record in historic material and thinks; it’s going to
be good. And it is good.
You don’t need to be an incubus for the lighter Scandinavian
muse, you don’t have to be a flag-waver for the ever-splendid
Tuxen and Grøndahl and you certainly don’t have
to be a mono or 78 snob, to welcome this handy twofer. You just
have to have a set of ears, a sense of historical continuity,
and an awareness of what this music might have meant at the
time and place it was recorded. And then add a dash of curiosity
- what does it sound like, how is it performed; what’s
the recording like; how has the transfer coped with things?
- and you’ll take the plunge.
So we have Kuhlau’s in part Beethovenian incidental music
to Elverhøj (Elf Hill) in this 1946 Polyphon recording
directed by Tuxen. The overture is taken from a 7 inch 45 not
the 78 set - better sound certainly - but the performance as
a whole is marked by ebullience and a genial set of dances.
The Danish State’s wind players have a fine old time,
and the horn-led Huntsman’s Chorus ends things
very nicely indeed. Mendelssohn admired Gade’s Op.1 -
the Concert Overture; Echoes of Ossian - saying that
it had ‘local colour, dreamy melancholy and heroic pathos’.
This is certainly true and it follows strongly Mendelssohnian
lines into the bargain as one might perhaps expect. His Novelletter
are perhaps rather more Schumannesque in orientation and were
written toward the end of Gade’s life. They’re very
easy on the ear, full of charm. The best is the lovely Andantino.
Nielsen, no less, directed a staging of J P E Hartmann’s
Liden Kirsten (Little Kirsten) in 1915 and we have here
its overture which reveals its genial and spirited patina. The
first disc ends however with a deeper note, the same composer’s
ceremonial, processional dirge in memory of Bertel Thovaldsen,
written in 1844. Grøndahl marshals the mourning (with
organ) with due solemnity.
Horneman’s Aladdin overture of 1863 is a bold,
confident affair recorded in the depths of war - the earliest
recording here. His Gurre-Suite is incidental music dating from
1899 and is astutely selected for recording purposes because
it enshrines both Grieg-like freshness, affectionately sprung
by Tuxen, and another funeral march. There are three extracts
from Nielsen’s Maskarade though they were by no
means recorded in a sequence but piecemeal, by both conductors,
over several years. Poul Schierbeck was a Nielsen pupil and
his 1931 Overture to Fête gallant is an action-packed
affair that merits real enthusiasm. By contrast Peder Gram’s
Poème lyrique does what it promises. Finally we
have the lissom, neo-Stravinskian charms of Svend Schultz’s
Serenade for Strings (1940) in which we can hear the orchestra’s
leader Leo Hansen in typically refined form.
Heterogeneous though this collection may be - with a balance
centred to the mid and later nineteenth century - it does enshrine
some marvellously evocative things not so easy otherwise to
track down. The transfers are on the button, even when the originals
may have been rather noisy, and the notes are mainly concerned
with the orchestra and its conductors. No matter. Incubi and
flag wavers can happily enter into the spirit of this welcome
see also review by Rob