Several discs with Danish songs have come my way for review
during the last couple of years. Here is still another with
a quartet of 19th century composers, of whom Kuhlau
probably is the best known internationally. His chamber music
for flute and his piano sonatas have had rather wide circulation
but to generations of Danes it is his incidental music for Elverhöj
that everybody knows. Born in Germany in 1786 he fled from military
service in 1810 and was thus a grown-up man when he arrived
in Copenhagen. It was natural for him to set GermanRead more verses.
But both Heise and Barnekow also turned to foreign poetry although
they set it in Danish translation.
Heise is regarded as one of the foremost Danish song composers,
next to Carl Nielsen, and he has a personal style, rather Danish
in spite of the English origin of the poems. The title of this
CD is from Lord Byron (tr. 3) and that song is perhaps the finest
of all on this disc. But all six have something that make them
stand out, not least Ekko (tr. 4).
Kuhlau’s setting of Goethe Rastlose Liebe, (tr. 7) is
fine with echoes of Beethoven and Weber. Of the other songs
by him Orpheus (tr. 10) is grand, more a dramatic scena.
The four duets by Barnekow are simple and delicious settings
of Russian folksongs with attractive melodies, apart from the
last of them, which is powerful and dramatic with a clear religious
message. Bechtgaard wrote almost 200 songs, very often
in the shape of cycles. These seven lyric songs are the only
ones on the disc with original Danish texts. I was not familiar
with this composer before but he turned out to be maybe the
most interesting of the four. Hun er saa let som Skovens
fejre Hind (tr. 16) is a gem, light and whirling with a
heavier and darker third stanza but it returns to the light-hearted
mood in the last. There is a welcome freshness to all of his
Erik Bekker Hansen has a lightish, basically soft lyric tenor
voice. His ability to change vocal colours is limited but he
has fine sense for the texts and can be quite expressive. In
the heavier songs he is sometimes overtaxed and sounds strained
and adopts a vibrato that becomes prominent. Camilla Toldi Bugge
is clear-voiced and makes a good impression in the Goethe song
but in some of the duets she tends to glare. Erik Bekker Hansen’s
regular pianist Ellen Refstrup is a splendid accompanist and
the recording is well balanced.
Erik Bekker Hansen is no Aksel Schiřtz but he is more than acceptable
and the disc is worth hearing for some fine songs.
-- Göran Forsling, MusicWeb International Read less