WORKS: Et Folkesagn (A Folk Tale)
PERFORMER: Danish Radio Sinfonietta/Harry Damgaard
CATALOGUE NO: 999 426-2
This CD encapsulates a rich slice of ballet history. August Bournonville (1805 -79), key figure of the Romantic dance movement, founder of the great Danish school of choreography, was inter multa alia responsible for creating a whole host of new ballets, in many of which Nordic myth and legend provided the matter, and for most of which scores were specially commissioned. A significant example is the three-act Folk Tale (1858). Bournonville derived its story – Jutland landed gentry romantically entangled with trolls – from various folk sources (the troll feast drawn from Hans Christian Andersen); its music he commissioned from Gade, leading Danish nationalist-Romantic, and Hartmann, Gade’s father-in-law.
As a work of collaborative artistic endeavour (Gade composed the outer acts, Hartmann the central), this is a remarkable feat. The music, a sort of Danish-Biedermeier laced with touches of local colour, may not offer the outpourings of high-Romantic invention associated with the great Tchaikovsky ballet scores, but it is unfailingly charming. Gade was a Mendelssohn protégé, and his numbers boast indeed a Mendelssohnian fluency; Hartmann’s act, ‘In the Elf Hill’, is marked by more potent fantasy and imagination – a bolero for flute and pizzicato strings is a particular delight. It’s a lively performance, not lush but wholly idiomatic, full of verve and energy. Max Loppert