Emil & Jpe Hartmann; Niels W & Axel Gade; Asger & Ebbe Hamerik; Siegfried & Rued Langgaard; Carl & Gustav Helsted

COMPOSERS: Emil & Jpe Hartmann; Niels W & Axel Gade; Asger & Ebbe Hamerik; Siegfried & Rued Langgaard; Carl & Gustav Helsted
LABELS: Danacord
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Harmonious Families
WORKS: Vol. 1: Works by Emil & JPE Hartmann; Vol. 2: Works by Niels W & Axel Gade; Vol. 3: Works by Asger & Ebbe Hamerik; Vol. 4: Works by Siegfried & Rued Langgaard; Vol. 5: Works by Carl & Gustav Helsted
PERFORMER: Kim Bak Dinitzen, Henrik Steensgaard, Henrik Dam Thomsen (cello), Christina Åstrand, Karsten Dalsgaard Madsen (violin), Jørgen Frederiksen (oboe), Oleg Marshev (piano); South Jutland SO/Jean-Pierre Wallez, Iona Brown, Moshe Atzmon, Matthias Aeschbacher, G
CATALOGUE NO: DACOCD 508, 510, 526, 535, 537
Musical dynasties, so familiar a feature of the 18th century, are relatively rare in our own age, but flourished in 19th-century Denmark: indeed JPE Hartmann, born in 1805, the year of Nelson’s attack on Copenhagen, was not only the oldest of the composers here, but his musical genes extended further than Emil. Hartmann’s granddaughter was the mother of Denmark’s most prolific symphonist, Niels Viggo Bentzon (d2000). They are contrasted on the first disc but the chief attraction, perhaps, is Emil Hartmann’s Cello Concerto with its reminders of Saint-Saëns and Lalo.

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The Echoes of Ossian Overture is easily the most familiar Gade piece, though Hamlet and the Capriccio in A minor for violin and orchestra are both in the catalogue. His son Axel was a violinist, leader of the Royal Danish Orchestra and a pupil of Joachim. The Second Violin Concerto, like his father’s work, is indebted to Mendelssohn. Amiable and pleasing but pace Mogen Wenzel Andreasen’s note, neither really memorable nor personal. The performances are decent rather than distinguished.

I remember when I first went to Copenhagen in the early Fifties Danish musicians spoke of Ebbe Hamerik with some enthusiasm, and listening to his Cantus firmus V (Sinfonia breve) I can understand why. He had imagination and musical resource, and his almost complete disappearance from the scene is puzzling. His father, Asger Hamerik was a pupil of von Bülow, was befriended by Berlioz in the 1860s and spent many years directing the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. His Sixth Symphony for strings (Symphonie spirituelle) was occasionally heard in the Fifties, but the other pieces here are new and worth investigating, particularly in such serviceable performances.

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Rued Langgaard may well enjoy cult status at present and at best his music has real vision; at worst (as in the Piano Concerto here) he is a mere windbag. His father was a pupil of Neupert, Gade and Liszt: his Piano Concerto is full of overblown, inflated Lisztian rhetoric, which Oleg Marshev despatches valiantly as he does Rued Langgaard’s spectacularly unrewarding concerto. Carl Helsted’s Overture and his First Symphony are well fashioned, albeit very Mendelssohnian, but the Romance by his son Gustav, inspired presumably by Svendsen, is not unattractive, as is the Cello Concerto. Good soloists, but very subfusc orchestral playing.