Scandinavian Classics - Volume 2
Friedrich KUHLAU (1786-1832)
Elverhøj (Elf Hill) - incidental Music Op.100 (1828) [25:36]
Niels W GADE (1817-1890)
Concert Overture; Echoes of Ossian Op.1 (1840) [13:37] ¹
Novelettes for string orchestra Op.53 (1886) [13:37]
In the Blue Grotto from the ballet Napoli (1842) [3:42] ¹
J.P.E. HARTMANN (1805-1900)
Little Kirsten - Overture Op.44 (1846) [8:52]
Funeral March for Bertel Thovaldsen (1844) [4:20] ¹
C.F.E. HORNEMAN (1840-1906)
Eventyr (Fairy tale) Overture; Aladdin (1863) [7:49]
Gurre-Suite from the incidental music to Drachmann’s drama (1899) [14:25]
P.E. LANGE-MÜLLER (1850-1926)
Prelude to Drachmann’s play Renaissance (1900) [4:14]
Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Maskarade (1906) - excerpts; Overture [4:18]; Prelude to Act II [4:08]: Dance of the Cockerels, Act III [4:34] ¹ (this excerpt only conducted by Grøndahl)
Poul SCHIERBECK (1888-1949)
Fête gallant Op.25 - Overture (1931) [8:45] ¹
Peder GRAM (1881-1956)
Poème lyrique Op.9 (1911) [7:21]
Svend S SCHULTZ (1913-1998)
Serenade for Strings (1940) [15:49]
Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra/Erik Tuxen
Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra/Launy Grøndahl ¹
rec. 1942-52, Concert Hall of Danish Radio. ADD
DANACORD DACOCD 673-674 [73:57 + 72:34]
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 enterprise.
Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Rob Barnett