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Jensen legacy v5 DACOCD915
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Thomas Jensen (conductor)
Legacy Volume 5
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
A Midsummer Night's Dream Overture, Op.21 (1829) [12:24]
Violin Concerto in E minor Op.64 (1844) [26:38]
Symphony No.3 in A minor, Op.56 Scottish (1829-42) [37:03]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Concerto Grosso in A minor, Op. 6 No. 1 in G major, HWV319 (1739) [12:55]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major K467 (1785) [30:06]
Niels W GADE (1817-1890)
Novelettes in F major, Op.53 (1874) [18:31]
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Carnival Overture (1891) [9:00]
Henrik Sachsenskjold (violin)
Annie Fischer (piano)
Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra
rec. 21 January 1962, (Mendelssohn); 31 October 1963 (Handel, Mozart); 5 June 1962 (Gade, Dvořák), Danish Radio Concert Hall, Copenhagen
DANACORD DACOCD915 [76:28 + 70:59]

Volume 5 in the ever-ongoing Thomas Jensen series of two discs priced ‘as for one’ presents new remasterings of live and previously unissued broadcast performances made toward the end of the conductor’s life. Indeed, the Handel-Mozart pairing was made just a fortnight before his death.

The Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra often performed Mendelssohn. The first CD preserves a sequence of works performed on 21 January 1962 in the Danish Radio’s concert hall: the overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Violin Concerto and Symphony No.3. This was the programme that the orchestra had played back in 1925, soon after its formation. They continued to play his music under the Occupation until they were ordered to desist by the Germans in October 1943. There are perhaps a few instances of faulty balances in the overture though whether this is a result of engineering or, possibly more likely, Jensen’s increasing deafness it’s impossible to be sure.

The soloist in the concerto is the orchestra’s concertmaster, the long-lived Henrik Sachsenskjold (1918-2016), a student of René Benedetti in Paris before the war. Later he studied composition with Poul Schierbeck - whose music Jensen performed - and conducting under van Kempen and for a while had a dual career as soloist and conductor. One feels him getting better and better in the concerto, after a somewhat shaky start intonationally, and this is a fine concertmaster-soloist performance, if a little small-scaled in places and with a few examples of scrappy orchestral chording behind him. Nevertheless, this is a valuable souvenir of his musicianship. Jensen’s admiration for the Third Symphony is evident in this reading, well-paced, unostentatious, direct without being cool and attractively phrased.

The second disc opens with Handel’s Concerto Grosso in A minor, Op. 6 No. 1 in G major, which is rhythmically quite well sprung, for the time. It’s followed by Annie Fischer in Mozart’s C major Concerto, K467. In conception, as one might predict, it’s very similar to the LP she had recently made with Sawallich and the Philharmonia in London in 1958. The piano sits quite forward in the balance and it’s not always easy to hear all the wind lines, whilst the strings are also clearly behind the piano in the balance too; the orchestral tuttis are not so bad, fortunately. If you want to focus on Fischer this is good news (however detrimental to ensemble), notably in the Busoni cadenza which she habitually employed and in the warm phrasing of the slow movement and the buoyant ebullience of the finale. For everyday listening, though, stick with her commercial legacy.

For the final two orchestral items it’s back to June 1962. Gade’s Novelettes was familiar territory, and these four charmers reflect a Mendelssohnian element that fits the programmatic arc of the twofer well. Somewhat reminiscent of those early string symphonies the sentiment is refined and the suggestions of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings palpable but deceptive as it wasn’t written until six years after Gade’s work. Dvořák’s Carnival overture was one of the orchestra’s calling cards. Fritz Busch had included it in the Danish Radio Orchestra’s memorable visit to the 1950 Edinburgh Festival, an event that took them to an international stage, and Jensen balances vitality with warmth in this reading.

The restorations here are accomplished as so are the always excellent notes by Martin Granau and Peter Quantrill. As this series develops it pushes ever outward as regards Jensen’s repertory so if you have always had him down as a Nordic specialist this series should increasingly change your viewpoint.

Jonathan Woolf

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