These songs are arrangements by Michael Bojesen for four-part choir from Nielsen's original settings for voice and piano. The exceptions are the items marked * which are Nielsen's own choral settings. The extensive notes explain how Nielsen came to have a role in Danish song not dissimilar to Vaughan Williams' role in the English hymnal, that is to become the composer of some of the best known tunes in the nation's culture. Danes have a long history of using every occasion as one for a song. The items here are simple strophic songs, of which Nielsen wrote well over two hundred. Here we have just twenty in arrangements for the small Ars Nova choir. Those expecting the Nielsen of the symphonies or even the two operas will be greatly surprised because these are simple, tuneful and very easy listening indeed. None last more than a few minutes and have no pretensions to profundity whatever. They are just good tunes. It is no exaggeration to say that several are positively famous in Denmark, even today, even amongst people who wouldn't recognise a note of Nielsen's orchestral music.
One cannot imagine them sung better than this, except in some cases when heard in the original form and sung by, particularly, the likes of Aksel Schiøtz. The expectation at the time was that a single voice or a choir in unison would sing the words accompanied by a written-out piano part. The originals have thus either four or five parts including the keyboard. Michael Bojesen has used Nielsen's small number of choral settings as a guide and adapted seventeen more for four-part choir without accompaniment. It works well, though it might prove a bit too sophisticated to experienced listeners, particularly Danes.
The recording in surround is basically very good but the current batch has a production fault that also occurs on the Nielsen Fifth and Sixth Symphonies recently issued by Dacapo; namely, the Centre and Right channels are reversed. On my set-up this can be corrected fairly easily, after which the excellent 5.0 sound is available to enjoy. The stereo does not suffer from any problem so if stereo, either CD or SACD, is your usual listening mode you may buy this excellent disc with confidence.
Attractive performances of easily enjoyed songs.
Previous review: Dan Morgan
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