Nielsen: Songs

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COMPOSERS: Nielsen
LABELS: Dacapo
WORKS: Songs
PERFORMER: Inger Dam-Jensen (soprano), Morten Ernst Lassen (baritone), Ulrich Staerk (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.224218
If only young singers would dare to twist their tongues and larynxes round the Danish language, we’d doubtless be able to hear more of the fresh and ever-engaging songs of Carl Nielsen in recital. The recording catalogue reveals only a handful of largely Danish performances; and here’s another. It presents both the composer’s art-songs and his heart-songs – those treasures of Danish hearth and home – in a new and enticing anthology.

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Nielsen’s settings of JP Jacobsen (composed on his honeymoon) and of Ludvig Holstein were famously championed by the great Danish tenor Aksel Schiøtz, whose Danacord recordings are still available. A selection of these songs is shared here between Morten Ernst Lassen, whose supple, subtle baritone warms to the spacious acoustic of Copenhagen’s Royal Library in ‘Sunset’; and the irresistible Inger Dam-Jensen who enjoys the poignant drollery of the lovelorn page in Jacobsen’s ‘Period Piece’. An unstoppable free-flow of melody, nicely pointed by Nielsen’s pungent harmonic palette in Ulrich Staerk’s eloquent accompanying, characterises the deceptively simple Holstein settings, including ‘Song behind the Plough’ and ‘Apple Blossom’.

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Dam-Jensen delectably recreates Nielsen’s sun-dappled setting of Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘Nature Study’ – all gooseberry bushes and linen drying on the line. And finally the two singers join in Henrik’s and Pernille’s spirited duo from Maskarade. Hilary Finch