WORKS: Holger Danske
PERFORMER: Inga Nielsen, Henriette Bonde-Hansen, Gert Henning-Jensen, Inger Dam-Jensen; Danish National RSO & Choir/Thomas Dausgaard
CATALOGUE NO: 8.224036/37 DDD
This is a fascinating and hugely enjoyable set. Kunzen, hailed as ‘the Nordic Cherubini’, was a German-born composer who worked in Copenhagen during the 1780s and who moved to Berlin when this, his first opera, was unsuccessful in 1789.
Holger Danske (Ogier the Dane) contains a magical mix redolent of Gluck and Mozart, in which Kunzen uses extraordinarily fluid juxtapositions of recitatives, straightforward strophic songs, declamatory arias, dramatic scenas and dance interludes. Kunzen collaborated with the young Danish author Jens Baggesen, who based his libretto on Wieland’s Oberon. The high points of dramatic and musical intensity are Oberon and Titania’s monologues in Acts I and III. Between these, the marriage celebrations at the court of Sultan Buurman provide a diverse and exotic musical tableau with the central drama of Almansaris attempting to seduce Holger. This recording has a strong cast and the main roles are all superbly sung despite some fiendishly difficult E music. Bonde-Hansen and Dam-Jensen give stunning performances. Dausgaard has delivered a beautifully paced resurrection of this historic work – a much deserved homage to Kunzen. Elise McDougall