Svend S. Schultz (1913–1998)
Akademisk Kor Århus, Denmark/Jonas Rasmussen
rec. Mariager Kirke, Denmark. July 2021
Danish texts enclosed. English translations available online
Reviewed as download from press preview.
Complete Works for Mixed Choir – Volume 1
Danacord DACOCD951 
Akademisk Kor Århus is a professionally working amateur choir, consisting of thirty young singers with connections to Aarhus University and Jutland’s Music Conservatory. The choir has given numerous concerts in Denmark as well as abroad, and recorded several CDs. They have also taken part in choral competitions worldwide. Most recently they won “The World Choral Cup” at the competition “Sing for Gold” in Calella in 2022. In September 2018, they won a Grand Prix in the Rimini International Choral Competition, and in July 2019 they won the World Choral Championship in Tokyo. The conductor Jonas Rasmussen teaches at the Jutland Music Conservatory, leads three choirs on a regular basis and is bass-singer in a barbershop quartet.
Svend S. Schultz began studies at the Royal Danish Music Conservatory in 1933 and worked after that as music teacher and music reviewer at Politiken. Besides that, he became known as choral conductor and from 1949 he became permanent conductor of the Danish Radio Choir, which he led for the next thirty years and developed into one of leading choirs in the country. He was especially known for his many choral compositions, but also wrote some operas around 1950. His instrumental works have unfortunately had less exposition; few have been published and hardly any are available in modern recordings. In spite of the popularity of his many choral works, relatively few of them are available in modern recordings, which triggered the Academic Choir in Århus to take the initiative to record all the works for mixed choir a cappella. This is the first in the series of five CDs to be issued, and judging from this starter we will be in for an attractive traversal of Schultz’ varied oeuvre.
Besides a handful from the early 1940s, the majority of the songs here were composed late in Schultz’ life. “Four songs on account of the choral composer of the year 1989” opens the disc. The four items don’t seem to have any thematic connection, but are rather to be regarded as incidental pieces. The opening piece, Evening Hymn, is the most beautiful number with a typical Nordic tone. Spring Day in February, lively and joyful, felt very suitable when I wrote this on 18 February and the thermometer indicated several degrees above zero. The weather and the nature obviously inspired Schultz. The fourth song¸ Long Winter, is the same category, and so is the mini cycle, “Dansk Vejr” (Danish Weather) to his own texts (tr. 7-10), which he presented the year after: the slow and chilly Frost, the rhythmical and airy Wind, the soft and still-standing Sun and the lively Rain. The solemn Silent Prayer in the Deer Park, composed a couple of years earlier, is another – and to my mind one of the finest on this disc. The soft nuances are excellently handled by the choir with superb pianissimo singing. At the other end of the time scale, we find “Three Madrigals for Mixed Choir” from 1943 (tr. 12-14), where again, nature is very present. It rains is another highpoint. There is a true feeling of youthfulness about all three of the madrigals, but turning immediately after to the concluding number, “Efterklange” (Echoes), we get the same sense of youth – yet it was composed as late as 1993, when Svend S. Schultz was 80. He clearly preserved his youthfulness into old age.
It seems that his tonal language to a large degree also remained the same; it is tonal, often chromatic, with dissonances sprinkled in every now and then. As a chorister for almost 60 years in both male and mixed choirs on a strictly amateur level, I am familiar with the problems of intonation; here I feel totally confident. The textures are as clear as spring water.
The quality of the recording is excellent. There are biographies about the composer, the conductor and the choir, from which I have quoted extensively, but no comments on the music, and the playing time is parsimonious at 43 minutes. In spite of that, this is a desirable acquisition for all lovers of choral music.
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1. Aftensalme (Evening Hymn)
2. Ingen er helt allene (No one is completely alone)
3. Forårsdag i Februar (Spring Day in February)
4. Lange Vinter (Long Winter)
5. Skovvise (Forest Song)
6. Andagt i Dyrehaven (Silent prayers in the deer park)
7. Frost (Frost)
8. Blaest (Wind)
9. Sol (Sun)
10. Regn (Rain)
11. Usandsynlig Moral (Improbable Moral)
12. April-vise (April Song)
13. Det regner (It rains)
14. Poesi og Virklighed (Poetry and reality)
15. Efterklange (Echoes)