With a mix as varied as this an overall r ecommendation
is hard. Assuming historic performances from Denmark are your thing,
then this has enough good material to justify the very moderate cost.
In purely musical terms there is one significant rarity and a handful
of notable performances. The transfers are perfectly adequate and nowhere
does the music disappear below the noise levels. More often than not
the results are good. The extended note is carefully researched and
an interesting read.
The significant rarity is the Sixth Symphony of Asger Hamerik which is first on CD 1. Hamerik had an unusual career, the most important period of which was in the United States. From 1871 until 1898 he was Director of the Conservatoire in Baltimore, Maryland, the Peabody Institute, and raised it to world fame, attracting praise from, among others, Tchaikovsky and Sir Arthur Sullivan. He resigned in protest over budget cuts and returned to Denmark for the remainder of his life. He rapidly sank into almost total obscurity because he was essentially a conservative figure. At home the major composer was Carl Nielsen and through the rest of Europe countless masters were active. Despite composing seven symphonies (see Dacapo set) and four operas plus vocal and chamber music, he has been ignored since at least in terms of concert life. Regrettably the music of the Sinfonie Spirituelle, though attractive, is conventional and perhaps its neglect is not surprising. The Boyd Neel Orchestra give a well drilled performance which is worth hearing nonetheless. The rest of CD1 is taken up with Sibelius, the Fifth Symphony and the Karelia Suite. The former is a worthy enough performance but the Danish Radio Orchestra sound more at home in Karelia with Thomas Jensen directing a particularly lively Intermezzo.
CD 2 starts with J.P.E. Hartmann's Overture to Hakon Jarl which is tuneful and very appealing. Its neglect is hard to justify. Svendsen's Polonaise is fun but a touch relentless. The next 30 minutes or so is devoted to Carl Nielsen, five extracts from his music for Aladdin. This is charming music, a reminder of his skill at light music and indeed his willingness to create so much of it on demand, even at the height of his career. The Tivoli Orchestra could probably play this in their sleep, the Negro Dance sounds a bit as if they did, though they must have concentrated a bit more on the Marketplace in Isphahan to negotiate the multiple tunes played all together, Ives style. The final Nielsen item, the Cockerel's Dance from Maskarade, is a short but very fine piece well directed by Thomas Jensen.
The wonderfully named Knudåge Riisager — try that on a non-Danish speaker — is the first of four light-classical composers, all of whom could easily have written the quality film music of the 1940s and 1950s at which Hollywood excelled. They are also the equals of Eric Coates, Robert Farnon and Ronald Binge from the UK side of the North Sea. All have managed total obscurity for no very good reason. I have to highlight one piece: the Tango Jalousie by Jacob Gade (no relation of Niels Gade). Jealousy turns out to be one of those amazingly famous tunes which everyone recognises. Apparently it still earns significant income. Finally on CD2 are two pieces by the Johann Strauss of the North, H.C. Lumbye. His Copenhagen Steam-Railway Galop is the earliest recording in the set, 1933. It sounds just fine and the Tivoli Orchestra gives easily the best performance of this marvellous piece I have heard. It takes only 3:10 to get from station to station, proving that the railways have slowed significantly in the intervening years. The Danish Radio orchestra and Rozhdestvensky took 30% longer to do the same journey in 1993 for Chandos. The final Champagne Galop is also great fun. Why don't we hear more Lumbye? He is a wonderful composer of dance music, often the equal of his Viennese contemporaries.
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