WORKS: Symphony No. 2 (The Sea); Symphony No. 3
PERFORMER: Frankfurt RSO/Ole Schmidt
CATALOGUE NO: 999 353-2
Danish symphonists other than Gade and Nielsen are a closed book to most people, though Asger Hamerik’s Sixth for strings, the Symphonie spirituelle (1897) was recorded by Boyd Neel in the days of 78s. He was a pupil of Berlioz but spent the greater part of his life in Baltimore where he was director of the Peabody Institute. The Symphonie spirituelle inhabits much the same world as Schumann and Gade, two of whose sets of Novellettes are accommodated on the same disc. Not strongly individual but well crafted, it is civilised music, impeccably played as one would expect from the Deutsche Kammerakademie Neuss under their cellist-conductor, Johannes Goritzki. It produces a fine tonal blend and every phrase breathes. First-rate sound, too.
Hakon Børresen and Ludolf Nielsen were both 11 years younger than Carl Nielsen and both outlived him. Børresen studied with Svendsen who actually conducted the premiere of his First Symphony (as, for that matter, he had Carl Nielsen’s). His Second Symphony (1904) is well-schooled with a delightful scherzo scored with the lightness and transparency of a Mendelssohn. The symphony as a whole has a Dvorákian sense of space. The Third (1928), the only one of his symphonies to be published in his lifetime, is fluent and beautifully crafted, though the ideas are not particularly individual. (Børresen was sufficiently famous in his lifetime for the then King of Denmark to cycle over to his home unannounced to consult him about his son’s preoccupation with music!) Ole Schmidt gets excellent playing from the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra and this is much better played and recorded than Ludolf Nielsen’s First Symphony (1903). The latter is less expertly fashioned than the Børresen though he has the breadth of a symphonist and possesses the more original mind. There are touches of Bruckner and even of his famous namesake. If none of these are masterpieces they are all worth investigating. Robert Layton