August ENNA (1859-1939)
Fairy Tales - Symphonic Pictures (1905) [32:14]
Hans Christian Andersen Overture (1905) [11:37]
Symphony No. 2 in E major (1908) [34:21]
Hannover NDR Radio Philharmonic/Michael Hofstetter
rec. Grosser Sendesaal des Landesfunkhaus Niedersachsen, 25-28 October 2005 (Sym), 81-12 March 2004. DDD
CPO 777 035-2 [78:18]
As is not unusual with CPO this fully-loaded disc breaks new ground.
The Danish composer August Enna was something of an old-fashioned romantic; rather backward-looking but with some fresh ideas melodically and in his use of the orchestra. His music – on this showing - veers around Mendelssohn, Berlioz and Tchaikovsky. Yet he also remind you at times of Sibelius and Nielsen (both pre-1900).
Among major non-vocal works he wrote just two symphonies (D minor, 1886 and E major, 1908) and a violin concerto. His main commitment lay in the field of opera two of which have been recorded by CPO: Heisse Liebe (1903) on CPO777 250-2 and The Little Match Girl (or Das Streichholzmädel) (1900) on CPO999 595-2. The latter is based on H.C. Andersen whose writings inspired him more than once. The first two works on this disc owe their origin to Andersen. The overture to The Little Match Girl or The Little Match Seller could once be heard on a long-gone Unicorn disc DKP(CD) 9036 recorded in May 1986 in Odense by Ole Schmidt with the Odense Symphony Orchestra.
The Violin Concerto (1897) can be heard as part of the Kai Laursen project on Danacord DACOCD466 or as part of the ten disc set on DACOCD461-470. One reviewer commented on its modest charms and drew parallels with the Godard concertos. I related it to the Gade and Mendelssohn school: another singing display piece but with the emphasis on heart rather than obviously flashy pyrotechnics. It’s all over and done with in 22:57. Agreed the 1966 vintage recording does not help its cause.
The other Enna operas of which there are about twenty include Heksen (The Witch), 4 acts (1891), Cleopatra, 3 acts after H Rider Haggard (1893), Aucassin und Nicolette, 4 scenes (1896), Die Erbsenprinzessin, comic opera, 1 act after H.C. Andersen (1902), Gloria Arsena. 4 scenes after Alexandre Dumas (1916), The Comedians, 3 Acts (1921), and Don Juan Mañara, in 3 acts (1922). This is not to forget other non-operatic yet vocal works such as Die Schäferin und der Schornsteinfeger (The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep) after H.C. Andersen. (1902), Mutterliebe, Legend for soli, choir and orchestra (1907), Sancta Cecilia's Guldsko (Golden shoes), a pantomime-ballet, 1 act (1905) and Bellman – A Fantasy, 4 scenes (1907).
The score for the 32 minute, four movement Fairy Tales does not identify any particular stories. The movements carry standard tempo markings; that’s it. The first begins imposingly in a tempest - but soon sighs romantically before returning to the storms. The Andante and the Allegro Vivace are stirringly big-hearted and brilliant affairs with Tchaikovskian resonances - an echo also shared by Haakon Børresen, Louis Glass and Levi Madetoja. That smiling Tchaikovskian wraith also hangs benevolently over the last few pages of the finale. After a long cello solo-led foreword we have a soulfully pulsating finale with a grand melody of Tchaikovskian pathos. This transforms into a jingling alla turca fantasy which must surely have left its imprint on Nielsen for his music for Oehlenschlager’s Aladdin. The Hans Christian Andersen Overture at first roars with the defiance of Egmont and Eroica and something of the tragedy of Tchaikovsky’s Hamlet but soon relaxes into a sumptuous smooch. It then finds a chatteringly propulsive tempo which recalls Le Corsair and Carnaval Romain. The Second Symphony is in four sumptuous movements and combines a Tchaikovskian manner (Fifth Symphony) with an folk-idyllic and sometimes Delian pulse. The music is playful and jolly without being simple-minded. The reins are held with due tension for which credit must go to Hofstetter who will, I hope, become a CPO stalwart. The third movement uses a chattering folk-like dance with a lightly applied dash of fugal paint. The two outer movements are big structures and in the case of the finale combine folk-dance with grandeur and at the end bristling drama. There’s a touch of Svendsen and Alfvén here too but the Scandinavian accent is not all that assertive.
The strings are not quite as juicily ‘fruity’ and resilient as I might have hoped but not sufficient to detract; just something to be aware of.
Liner-notes from CPO can at times be rather congealed; not this one - which is by Jens Cornelius.
I hope that CPO will let us have the First Symphony in due course. Of the stage works I am most intrigued by the Rider Haggard opera Cleopatra – did any other composer write anything inspired by Haggard?
Postscript from Holger Sambale
I have this disc and quite like it, too - really nice and appealing music. What I want to make you aware of is the following: as far as I am informed, Enna's Symphony No. 1 is lost - so there is no chance for a release. At least that is what MGG (= Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, a huge music encyclopedia which is best described as the German equivalent of New Grove) tells us. HS
CPO breaks new ground again with sometimes folksy music woven with the manner of Tchaikovsky.