Regarded by many as a
somewhat enigmatic figure in Danish music, Kuhlau
was actually born near Lüneburg in Germany. In 1810, he fled to
Copenhagen to avoid conscription into the Napoleonic Army, becoming a
Danish citizen in 1813. By the time he arrived in Denmark, Kuhlau had
already begun to make a name for himself in Germany as a composer and
concert pianist. He soon began to further his career in Copenhagen. In
his lifetime, Kuhlau came to be regarded as a leading concert pianist
in Denmark as well as a composer of opera, with his incidental music
for the play Elverhøj (Elves' Hill), being regarded as the first work
of Danish National Romanticism. Whilst in his role as a concert pianist
he introduced many of Beethoven's works, a composer he greatly admired,
to Copenhagen audiences. Kuhlau was regarded as something of a prolific
composer, with over two hundred published works, and nearly as many
un-published works; this despite a fire in his home destroying a lot of
his unpublished music. He is regarded as a leading light in the Danish
Golden Age and the father of Danish opera, although he is primarily
remembered for his flute music. It was this that earned him the
nicknamed of "the Beethoven of the flute" during his lifetime (review
Stylistically Kuhlau’s music can be characterised by the current trends
of the day, with the music of the later German Classical and early
Romantic composers. These were seen to have had an influence upon his
own compositional development, with Beethoven being chief amongst them.
Kuhlau's C major Piano Concerto, Op. 7 from 1810 (review
displays a strong influence from Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 in C
major. The similarities are so strong in places that some commentators
have described it as a pastiche of the great man's work. These
influences can be seen in Kuhlau’s chamber music too, with his violin
sonatas being no different in this respect.
through a list of the composer's works you are left wondering just how
Dacapo are going to manage to fill a second volume. As far as I can see
the following are the only other works that mention the violin: the Op.
33 Sonata, an Op. 6b work for piano with optional violin part and Op.
110/WoO 227 composed for flute and piano with arrangements for violin
instead of the flute. A closer look reveals the Op. 64 Sonata, recorded
here and originally composed for flute and piano. Its optional violin
part is from an English edition published 23 years after the composer’s
death; whatever the case, it works well. This Sonata is quite ambitious
and by far the longest work on the disc. Its Romantic nature brings
together Danish folk music and the clear influence of Beethoven.
The three Sonatas Op. 79 are all charming and relatively short.
Although they were only composed a couple of years after Op. 64 they
seem much later in development and originality, with any musical
influences being merely implied. The Sonata in A minor is my personal
favourite, with its attractive and well developed opening Allegro
leading to a lilting second movement Andantino
ending with an elaborate Rondo: Alla polacca
of the these three sonatas. It's a short but perfectly formed sonata.
All three comprising Op. 79 seem to offer a more personal insight into
Kuhlau the composer and his individual style.
throughout is first rate. Christina Åstrand and Per Salo certainly have
the measure of this attractive music, with their performance being well
captured. Good booklet notes add to ones enjoyment of this attractive
and interesting music.