WORKS: Symphony No. 2 in A (The Sea); Symphony No. 3 in C
PERFORMER: Aalborg SO/Orwain Arwel Hughes
CATALOGUE NO: 8.224061
Though by a younger contemporary of Carl Nielsen, Hakon Børresen’s music sounds older, and offers less. Fluent, opulent, rhetorically Romantic, his works lack ideas individual or striking enough to justify their large scale. Symphony No. 1 (1901) is modelled on Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique – too obviously, as Børresen himself realised in later life, authorising only the second movement as worth performance. (Arthur Nikisch had thought the third movement the best; I find his judgement more acute than the composer’s.) Was it wise to resurrect the whole piece? It’s like a run-of-the-mill late 19th-century Russian symphony with Sibelian touches.
The other works are better, and marginally more Nordic. The Violin Concerto (1902-4) is undeniably attractive in its slow movement and finale, the highly idiomatic solo writing vividly expounded by Rebecca Hirsch. Symphony No. 2 (1904) is a spirited piece, though overlong and overloud. Børresen seems best in lighter movements of a scherzo type; elsewhere, in these comparatively early works, his scoring tends to coarsen. Much later, Symphony No. 3 (1927) is by far the most characterful, a garrulously inventive four-movements-in-one design. After their sterling work for Vagn Holmboe, Hughes and the Aalborg SO do this lesser Danish symphonist proud, but not even they can confer memorability on his music. Calum MacDonald