Heise/Lange-MŸller

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COMPOSERS: Heise/Lange-Máller
LABELS: Dacapo
WORKS: Songs
PERFORMER: Inger Dam-Jensen (soprano), Christen Stubbe Teglbjaerg (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.224065
Two of Denmark’s leading Romantic song composers – Heise (1830-79) and Lange-Müller (1850-1926) – are explored on this attractive, interesting, if finally somewhat marginal disc. To opera-going Londoners the name of the former may mean rather more, if only because recently his opera Drot og Marsk (King and Marshal), a key work in Danish operatic history, was mounted by London University students.

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Prolific songwriters both, they appear to share certain stylistic features: skilful pianistic writing heavily influenced by Schubert, Schumann (particularly in Lange-Müller’s case) and Mendelssohn; vocal writing sitting comfortably on the voice; sophisticated word-responsiveness. Of Heise’s larger artistic ambitions – which Drot og Marsk fully demonstrates – there is also evidence, in a seven-part cycle picturing the Frauenliebe und -leben of the young girl Dyveke, which marries formal complexity and melodic directness. But in terms of expressive refinement the younger composer has the edge, although even he fails to come up with a truly memorable vocal line.

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Edge – the high-register vocal sort – mars the otherwise free-voiced, sympathetic singing of Dam-Jensen, the 1993 Cardiff Singer of the World winner; ideally, however, the mature persuasiveness of a Danish Elisabeth Söderström is needed to clinch both composers’ cases. Max Loppert