Kuhlau: Elverhoj Suite; The Three Brothers from Damascus Overture; The Robbers’ Castle Overture; William Shakespeare Overture; Lulu Overture

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Kuhlau
LABELS: Unicorn-Kanchana
WORKS: Elverhoj Suite; The Three Brothers from Damascus Overture; The Robbers’ Castle Overture; William Shakespeare Overture; Lulu Overture
PERFORMER: Odense SO/Othmar Maga*, Edward Serov/
CATALOGUE NO: DKP(CD) 9132 DDD
Friedrich Kuhlau has had an honourable burial in the history books as the ‘founder of Danish musical Romanticism’, but this delightful release of his theatre music shows that he deserves to be disinterred. His music sounds like a compendium of early 19th-century styles, filtered through memories of Mozart (especially in the overture to The Three Brothers from Damascus, whose solemn opening sounds like The Magic Flute). You can hear echoes – feeble ones, admittedly – of Weber’s Romantic evocations of the German forest in the hunting chorus from the Elf Hill Suite, and the sudden fierce cadences remind one of Beethoven. But the most potent influence is Rossini, whose chirpy melodic style and chattering accompaniment figures are recalled everywhere, even in the later pieces, where the Romantic strain in Kuhlau’s music is more pronounced. The Dane has his weaknesses — he is rather over-fond of the triangle — but the music is always engaging, and the later pieces have moments of real power. Kuhlau is superbly well served by this recording, one of the best I heard in 1992. It has plenty of warmth and body but clearly shows off the sharp, brightly coloured scoring. The orchestra plays with great verve and precision, particularly the horns and woodwind; judging by this disc, it’s high time it made a visit to this country. Ivan Hewett

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