Knudåge RIISAGER (1897-1974)
The Symphonic Edition Vol. 1
Overture for Erasmus Montanus (Danish Pictures no.1), op.1 (c.1918-20)
Klods Hans (Jack the Dullard) (Danish Pictures no.2), op.18 (1929) [9:45]
Symphony no. 1, op.8 (1925) [25:37]
Comoedie (Danish Pictures no.4), op. 21 (1930) [9:46]
Fastelavn (Carnival) (Danish Pictures no.3), op. 20 (1930) [9:21]
Aarhus Symphony Orchestra/Bo Holten
rec. Musikhuset, Aarhus, Denmark, 14-18 September 2010, 21 February
The Symphonic Edition Vol. 2
T-DOXC (Poème Mécanique), for orchestra, op.13 (1926)
Symphony no.2, op.14 (1927) [14:57]
Concerto for Orchestra op.24 (1931) [16:58]
Primavera - Concert Overture, op.31 (1934) [5:43]
Sinfonia (Symphony no. 3), op.30 (1935) [21:07]
Aarhus Symphony Orchestra/Bo Holten
rec. Musikhuset, Aarhus, Denmark, 20-25 June 2011.
Slaraffenland (Fool's Paradise) - Suite I, op.33 (1936) [16:32]
Slaraffenland (Fool's Paradise) - Suite II, op. 33 (1940) [14:07]
Tolv med Posten (Twelve by the Post)- Six Dances from the Hans Christian
Andersen Ballet, op. 37 (1939) [11:29]
Concertino for trumpet and string orchestra, op.29 (1933) [11:21]
*Darduse - Dances from the Fairytale Play by Johannes V Jensen, op.
32 (1935-36) [19:06]
Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet)
Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra/Thomas Dausgaard
rec. Konserthuset, Helsingborg, Sweden, 2-6 June 1997.
Dacapo launched their 'Symphonic
' of Knudåge Riisager's works last year with Bo Holten
conducting the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra. The same team have just released
a second volume and as their recording includes the Concerto for Orchestra
as well as further overtures, it is now clear that this is not simply
a cycle of Riisager's five symphonies. That being the case, the 'Orchestral
Works' disc released in 2010, featuring the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra
under Thomas Dausgaard and a brief but notable guest appearance by Håkan
Hardenberger, constitutes at the very least a preface to the Edition.
This disc in fact came out originally in 1997 as 8.224028, so Dacapo's
decision to re-release it with cover art subsequently imitated by the
two 'Symphonic Edition' discs must surely have some significance.
In fact though, there are two further Dacapo discs, from 2005 and 2008,
that certainly belong in an Orchestral
Edition, if that is what
this ultimately becomes, not least because the first - Riisager's 'Arctic'
and his 'joke' ballet Benzin
- was recorded by Holten and the Aarhus SO. It will be interesting to
see if any of the works on either of these two albums are re-recorded
for the current series. Either way, the listener can expect further
persuasively idiomatic interpretations.
Uncommonly, Knudåge Riisager (pronounced approximately as a Brit
might say 'c'noothe-or-ga ree-say-awe') had a 'proper job' as a civil
servant, and in that sense was only ever a part-time composer. On the
other hand he was no amateur: his teachers included the likes of Albert
Roussel and Paul Le Flem, he was chairman of the Danish Composers' Association
for 25 years and later became Director of Copenhagen's Royal Academy
of Music - an institution he had never attended as a student.
Despite these trappings, Riisager was always something of a maverick
in Danish music, showing no interest in following Nielsen, but his scores,
melody-rich, harmonically consonant and lucidly structured, are by no
means unconventional - except in the sense that he applied the label
'symphony' to non-sonata-form works that in some ways are little different
to suites of concert overtures. In fact, as will quickly become apparent
to anyone following this series, Riisager's music, though unfailingly
colourful, almost always has the feel of an overture, short tone poem
or ballet movement. Neo-Classical Stravinsky's Pulcinella
on the one hand and Malcolm Arnold's comedy overtures
and St Trinian's
film scores on the other, give an idea of the
flavour much of it exudes, at least those featured here. There are rarely
any darker or serious episodes, and virtually no references to jazz
or modernism, giving Riisager a very 19th-century 'sound' - 18th
century, indeed. A certain counter-balance is, however, achieved by
the extemporised character much of the music retains.
The symphonies are, in a sense, sui generis
, and will not necessarily
appeal to audiences raised on Gade, Nielsen, Langgaard, Hamerik or Glass.
Economisers wanting to hear Riisager at his best cannot go wrong with
the Helsingborg/Dausgaard disc. The two Slaraffenland Suites, both designated
op.33 incidentally, are marvellously effervescent and varied, whilst
Håkan Hardenberger is typically suave in the short but genial
neo-Baroque Trumpet Concertino. Darduse is especially good, with its
tumultuous final dance, preceded by the third 'Dust Storm' movement
in which for once Riisager's writing turns briefly ominous, as the choir
is used to striking, quasi-instrumental effect. This CD also has the
advantage of having been upgraded to 'Super Audio' - although the regular
sound of the latter pair is also praiseworthy. Whatever the disc, most
works are in premiere recordings.
Though the accompanying notes are straight copies in part of the original
Dausgaard disc, they are still Dacapo's usual detailed, informative,
broadly well written efforts. It must be said, however, that annotator
Claus Røllum-Larsen does make claims for Riisager's music that
border at times on the fanciful. To describe, for example, T-DOXC -
an atmospheric portrait of a new Japanese aeroplane - as "quite in the
spirit of the 'machine music' of the period and as such a fine example
of the young composer's international orientation and will to experiment"
paints a misleading picture for anyone expecting a rival to Mossolov
Contact at artmusicreviews.co.uk
See also review of Volume 1 by Rob Barnett