WORKS: The Elf King’s Daughter; Spring Fantasy
PERFORMER: Susanne Elmark, Anne Margrethe Dahl (soprano), Kirsten Dolberg (contralto), Gert Henning-Jensen (tenor), Guido Paëvatalu (baritone), Sten Byriel (bass), Elisabeth Westenholz (piano)Tivoli SO & Concert Choir/Michael Schønwandt
CATALOGUE NO: 8.224051
The Elf-King’s Daughter and Spring Fantasy were the most frequently performed concert pieces at the Copenhagen Music Society in the 1850s, when Denmark’s capital was heady with the latest in German and Nordic Romantic music. Niels Gade was energetic in promoting the genre: his own Elverskud spins fragments of Danish folk ballads into a Mendelssohnian glimpse into the erotic world of faerie, as Oluf is fatally drawn to the elf-mound on the night before his wedding. This ballad for solo voices, choir and orchestra promises much, and the Danish performers do their best (contralto Kirsten Dolberg as the warning Mother is particularly affecting). But Gade’s invention is firmly earthbound: harmonically staid and rhythmically over-cautious, the music has a tendency to lapse into Lutheran hymn-mode once too often, and enchantment remains the far side of Fairyland.
The Spring Fantasy is at least shorter: after winter’s somewhat laboured retinue is sent packing, the music bowls along with a luminous piano solo part much enjoyed, apparently, by Robert and Clara Schumann in Düsseldorf in 1853. Hilary Finch