Schultz Efterklange (Echoes) Danacord

Svend S. Schultz (1913-1998)
Efterklange (Echoes): Collected Works for Mixed Choir Volume II
Akademisk Kor Århus/Jonas Rasmussen
No recording details
Danacord DACOCD952 [44]

Danish composer Svend Simon Schultz’s second disc of choir music is awkward to assess. The liner notes (from which I quote, with thanks) say that English translations of the texts can be found at the Akademisk Kor Århus webpage. There appear to be none, and I do not think it is the job of a critic to translate texts. That said, I have checked the titles and made a few slight alterations. I refer to the English titles in the body of the review. The booklet gives an English précis of each song, so the listener can enjoy this repertoire.

The Four English Songs should immediately appeal to a British audience. First up, John Peel, probably less-than-politically correct these days, celebrates the “thrill of the hunt”. I have never heard of the next song, The Girls’ Toast. Without a great deal of research, I was unable to locate the source. The third song, Wi’ a hundred pipers, an’ a’, an’ a’, is Scottish, attributed to Lady Nairne. It recalls the pipers marching towards the English border with the Young Pretender (not King Charles!) leading the way. The fourth is Come Kiss and Come Miss. I do not know its derivation, too. All are a treat.

The Eight Songs for Mixed Choir present some imaginative ideas. They include an old man playing Music in his house. Then there are Telegraph Poles that “buzz, hum and sing their own song”. Bird Song sets a text by Schultz himself, all about the joys of spring and musically onomatopoeic avian activity. Equally evocative is the melting ice in April. Sadly, the poet’s lover’s eyes reflect the grey sky and the coming of hail, cold and storms. Breezes and spinning in the sunshine are suggested in the vivacious The WeathercockStream-life considers the “wind making the reeds blow and the waves dance”. The Lovely Scent of Denmark is a beautiful image of a Scandinavian summer’s evening, and the singer’s reflection on past love affairs. The final number is a Rondeau. Once again it is a delightful celebration of summer.

The Four Icelandic Songs are beautiful. The Mountain Stretches Up gently evokes the country’s landscape, the fog capping the hills. Yet there is a romantic element. Just as the countryside surrounds us, so does love. The second song balances joy and sadness: there is happiness When the Sun Shines, but also we are aware of the “sorrow and struggle of humanity”. Impressions of landscape infuses the heart-breakingly lovely The Land Awakens: spring, the stirring of wildlife and the beginning of the day bring hope. I have had a country, is a poignant song of exile. An émigré recalls the mountains and rivers, but is supported by a new-found friend in the far off country. Thou Good Earth is a farmer’s paean for his family, his stock, his crops and his way of life. It is the longest song in this programme.

I have never heard of Svend S. Schultz. There is precious little on the Internet about him: just a couple of paragraphs in Grove’s Dictionary (online), and a long work list. The blurb says that he “is one of the most remarkable Danish composers and as a conductor he made a significant contribution to Danish songs during his 30 years as head of the Danish Radio Choir”. He was highly regarded for his choral works and several one-act operas, “some of which gained widespread popularity”. There were also five symphonies and ten string quartets, which it seems have not gained traction in the concert hall. His choral music is largely tonal and influenced by neoclassicism. The settings here are all approachable and easily assimilated.

As noted, I was unable to find the English translations of the songs. The liner notes and track listing give no dates for this music, and there are no recording details.

The Akademisk Kor Århus directed by Jonas Rasmussen sing all the pieces beautifully. The recording reflects Danacord’s outstanding technical competence.

Despite a few issues with documentation, which are important, I would not put listeners off this well-wrought and charming repertoire. These choral settings are worthy of performance by any choir or choral society.

John France

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1. En Lille Forårsvise (A Little Spring Song)
2. John Peel, Fire Engelske Sange (John Peel: Four English Songs)
3. Pigernes Skål, Fire Engelske Sange (The Girls’ Toast: Four English Songs)
4. De Hundrede Pibere, Fire Engelske Sange (A Hundred Pipers: Four English Songs)
5. Kom Knøs og Kom Tøs, Fire Engelske Sange (Come Kiss and Come Miss: Four English Songs)
6. I. Musik, 8 sange for blandet kor (Music: Eight Songs for Mixed Choir)
7. II. Telegrafpælene Synger, 8 sange for blandet kor (The Telegraph Poles Sing: Eight Songs for Mixed Choir)
8. III. Fuglevisen, 8 sange for blandet kor (Bird Song: Eight Songs for Mixed Choir)
9. IV. April, 8 sange for blandet kor (April: Eight Songs for Mixed Choir)
10. V. Vejrhanen, 8 sange for blandet kor (The Weathercock: Eight Songs for Mixed Choir)
11. VI. Åliv, 8 sange for blandet kor (Stream-Life: Eight Songs for Mixed Choir)
12. VII. Yndigt Dufter Danmark, 8 sange for blandet kor (The Lovely Scent of Denmark: Eight Songs for Mixed Choir)
13. VIII. Rondeau, 8 sange for blandet kor (Rondeau: Eight Songs for Mixed Choir)
14. Fjeldet Strækker Sig Op, Fire Islandske Sange (The Mountain Stretches Up: Four Icelandic Songs)
15. Når Solen Skinner, Fire Islandske Sange (When the Sun Shines: Four Icelandic Songs)
16. Landet Vågner, Fire Islandske Sange (The Land Awakens: Four Icelandic Songs)
17. Jeg Har Haft Et Land, Fire Islandske Sange (I have had a country: Four Icelandic Songs)
18. Du Gode Jord (Thou Good Earth)