COMPOSERS: Jpe Hartmann
WORKS: Liden Kirsten
PERFORMER: Inger Dam-Jensen, Poul Elming, Kirsten Dolberg, Henriette Bonde-Hansen; Danish National Radio Choir & SO/Michael Schønwandt
CATALOGUE NO: 8.224106-07
With such familiar plot devices as baby-swapping, identity-crises, and strolling jester, Gilbertians might be forgiven for thinking that Liden Kirsten is an unexhumed corpse buried by the Savoy savant. Not so, however. Hartmann’s most famous opera, to a libretto by Hans Christian Andersen no less, predates by many years the G & S partnership, but like the immortal duo, the Danish composer, despite the presence in his work of several continental touches such as a potential incest theme, avoids probing the deeper, Freudian, implications of his material.
If the result is cute rather than consequential, this does not detract from the opera’s individual qualities and enduring strength. With a distinctively Danish cut to its melodies and some harmonic twists prescient of Nielsen, this opera has more than curiosity value. Although its musical antecedents range from Schubertian charm and Weberian atmosphere to Mendelssohnian grace and Schumannesque vigour, Hartmann’s is a quietly distinctive voice, with a genuine flair for the musically dramatic.
In a performance as engaging as this, with Inger Dam-Jensen a n ethereal Kirsten, and Poul Elming a sturdy Sverkel, her lover designate, this recording should win many converts, and alert us to a vital strand in Danish musical history. Antony Bye