jensen legacy danacord

Thomas Jensen (conductor)
Legacy – Volume 20
Christian Esbensen (viola)
Danish Radio Chorus
Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Tivoli Concert Hall Orchestra
rec. live and in studio recordings, 1940-62
Danacord DACOCD930 [2 CDs: 157]              

The twentieth volume in this series presents the music of twelve Danish composers in a range of works and recordings, some studio, some live but all with one common denominator: conductor Thomas Jensen.

The twofer (for the price of one) begins with a sequence of 78s made by the Tivoli Concert Hall Orchestra for Odeon and Tono between the years 1940 and 1942. Kuhlau’s overture, Elf Hill, is played with a powerful sense of grandeur, its ‘second national anthem’ status securely buoyed by Jensen’s blazing conviction. Tuxen also recorded this, as did King Frederik IX – rather sleepily – in his sequence of recordings, which you can find on Dacapo (review).  Gade’s Echoes of Ossian is one of a number of pieces here to explore folklore or legendary literary source material. Its rugged and highly impressive sense of drama, infused with Mendelssohn’s influence, is propulsively realised by Jensen, who once again shows the King a fine pair of heels; Frederik’s recording can’t begin to match Jensen’s for flair. These Tivoli recordings are concluded by J.P.E. Hartmann’s rousing March, not without a sense of humour, and the romantic texturing of Lange-Müller’s Prelude to ‘Renaissance’. Svend Erik Tarp’s Mosaik, a miniature suite of 1940, was recorded in September 1942 and you can find this recording on the Thomas Jensen conducts Scandinavian Classics release on DACOCD523-4.  For witty compression Tarp earns top marks and his colourful, crisp and vivid pieces – The Accordion, The Shawm, The Old Violin, The Bagpipe etc – provide as much fun as they do admiration. For my tastes a little too much top has been taken off all these 78s.

Thenceforth we follow Jensen in broadcast material. Riisager’s Paradise of Fools is a charmingly varied suite that includes a gawky Lazy-bones polka and a lively Point Finale. Knud Høgenhaven is represented by a reserved Pastorale and much more extrovert, fulsome Norwegian Folk Tune of which Vaughan Williams would doubtless have approved.  Rather sterner stuff is provided by Vagn Holmboe whose Seventh Symphony of 1950 was broadcast by the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra in August 1957. This one-movement work is divided into three sections with three bisecting ‘Intermedios’ and finishes with a coda and all are separately tracked. It employs Holmboe’s metamorphosis technique. Its terse, martial elements are balanced by chorale suggestions as well as a turbulent direction, Holmboe ensuring that the music moves seamlessly through the Intermedio sections, all marked as Andantinos.  Whether pensive or terse, there is colour in Holmboe’s writing and Jensen brings all the symphony’s expressive qualities together splendidly. For an authoritative modern recording, listen to Owain Arwel Hughes and the Aarhus Symphony in their Holmboe cycle on BIS.

The second CD covers an array of stylistic bases. Riisager’s Qarrtsiluni isrhythmically and percussively piquant with vague echoes of La Valse, whilst Jørgen Jersild’s Pastorale has interesting harmonies – Jersild was a Roussel student – that heighten the never-obvious expressive potential of the music. Tarp is back for his brightly recorded Lystspilouverture, bluffly attractive music with a luscious B section, and he’s followed by Emil Reesen, whose Greenlandic Folk Music, composed in 1934, offers refulgent pleasures and is beautifully orchestrated. There’s one major work in the second disc, Erling Brene’s 1949 Viola Concerto with soloist Christian Esbensen. It was recorded in April 1960. I’d never come across Brene’s concerto before. It’s lightly scored and the viola has constantly weaving ostinato figures in the opening movement, very angular and increasingly energetic. There are melancholy passages in the central movement – suitably ‘lamentoso’ – which generate a passacaglia feel. Shackles off, the finale is crisp, athletic and a touch neo-classical. A diverting mid-century concerto but frankly it could have done with some tunes.

From June 1959 comes the world premiere performance of Flemming Weis’s Sinfonia proverbiorum (1958), a three-movement work for chorus and orchestra that sets sayings from the Book of Proverbs. It’s only sixteen minutes long but its three movements offer contemplative but also incrementally athletic music that end in an urgent admonitory finale. Suitably for the time I’m writing this review, early in December, Danacord ends with Reesen’s Danish Christmas Melodies, complete with bells a-plenty and rich thematic joy.

The notes are as fine as ever and if the programme appeals – and it’s wide enough to – and you’re as keen on Jensen as I am, this twofer might well be one for you (Editor’s Note – while the physical CD package is priced as a twofer, the download, from Presto at least, is full price – go figure)

Jonathan Woolf

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Friedrich Kuhlau (1786-1832)
Elf Hill: overture, Op.100 (1828)
Niels W Gade (1817-1890)
Echoes of Ossian; overture, Op.1 (1840)
J.P.E. Hartmann (1805-1900)
The Lay of Thrym; Triumphal March of the Nordic Gods (1868)
P.E. Lange-Müller (1850-1926)
Prelude to ‘Renaissance’ (1901)
Tivoli Concert Hall Orchestra, rec. for Odeon and Tono 78s, 1940-42
Knudåge Riisager (1897-1974)
Paradise of Fools, Suite 1, Op.33 (1936)
Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra rec. live broadcast 1962
Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996)
Symphony No.7, Op.50 (1950-51)
Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, rec. live, August 1957
Svend Erik Tarp (1908-1994)
Mosaik, miniature suite (1940)
Tivoli Concert Hall Orchestra, rec. for Tono 78s, 1942
Knud Høgenhaven (1928-1987)
Pastorale in F for string orchestra, Op.16 (1956)
Norwegian Folk Tune, Op.26 (1957)
Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, rec. live broadcast, August 1957

Knudåge Riisager
Qarrtsiluni, Op.36 (1938)
Jørgen Jersild (1913-2004)
Pastorale for string orchestra (1945)
Sven Erik Tarp
Lystspilouverture (1940)
Emil Reesen (1887-1964)
Greenlandic Folk Music (1934)
Erling Brene (1896-1980)
Viola Concerto, Op.47 (1949)
Christian Esbensen (viola)
Flemming Weis (1898-1981)
Sinfonia proverbiorum (1958)
Emil Reesen
Fantasy on Danish Christmas Melodies (1933)
Danish Radio Chorus/Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, rec. live concerts and broadcasts, 1957-60