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Knudage Riisager: The Symphonic Edition, Vol. 3

Riisager / Aarhus Sym Orch / Holten
Release Date: 02/25/2014 
Label:  Dacapo   Catalog #: 8226148   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Knudage Riisager
Conductor:  Bo Holten
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aarhus Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This third and, sadly, last entry in Dacapo’s Riisager Symphonic Edition contains some of the best music so far, smashingly performed and recorded. The Summer Rhapsody on Danish folk melodies sounds just as advertised. It’s a jolly potpourri of catchy tunes, scored with glittering abandon. The Sinfonia concertante for string orchestra dates from 1934, and it reveals the composer’s ability to use limited resources without compromising his music’s timbal color or textural interest. A new, vigorous (indeed, relentless) rhythmic element is very evident in this piece, and it characterizes the two symphonies as well. So although they are relatively short (less than twenty minutes each), they pack quite a punch.

The Fourth Symphony,
Read more subtitled Sinfonia gaia, is actually a wartime work, its avowed cheerfulness sometimes taking on an air of desperation in the rhythmic obstinacy of its outer movements. Riisager’s Fifth Symphony also belies its title: Sinfonia serena. Scored for strings with a virtuoso timpani part, the movement titles are curious. There’s a scherzo marked “Vivace ilare” (“hilarious”), and the finale is an “Allegro spregiudicato” (“Unprejudiced allegro”), surely a first in musical history. As can hear for yourself from a sample of the second movement, the hilarity is primarily rhythmic, and once again the limited forces give no hint on paper of the actual range of tone color that Riisager actually obtains from his ensemble.

Bo Holten and the Aarhus Symphony play all of this music, most of it shamefully neglected, with unflagging energy, and that is precisely what it needs. I would not listen to the entire disc at a sitting. Riisager’s emphasis on dextrous counterpoint and intensive rhythmic interplay can be exhausting in large doses. Take each work one at a time and you’ll be delighted. The engineering, too, is superb, save perhaps for a touch of performance noise in the Sinfonia concertante. This is a splendid conclusion to a great series.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 4, Op. 38 "Sinfonia gaia" by Knudage Riisager
Conductor:  Bo Holten
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aarhus Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939-1940 
2.
Symphony no 5, Op. 52 "Sinfonia serena" by Knudage Riisager
Conductor:  Bo Holten
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aarhus Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949-1950 
3.
Summer Rhapsody by Knudage Riisager
Conductor:  Bo Holten
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aarhus Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943 
4.
Sinfonia Concertante, Op. 34 by Knudage Riisager
Conductor:  Bo Holten
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aarhus Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937 

Sound Samples

Summer Rhapsody
Sinfonia Concertante, Op. 34: I. Allegro
Sinfonia Concertante, Op. 34: II. Intermezzo espressivo
Sinfonia Concertante, Op. 34: III. Vivace e leggiero
Sinfonia Concertante, Op. 34: IV. Grave
Sinfonia Concertante, Op. 34: V. Allegro giocoso
Symphony No. 4, Op. 38, "Sinfonia gaia": I. Allegro ostinato
Symphony No. 4, Op. 38, "Sinfonia gaia": II. Allegretto chiaro
Symphony No. 4, Op. 38, "Sinfonia gaia": III. Rondo di ritmo
Symphony No. 5, Op. 52, "Sinfonia serena": I. Allegro ardito
Symphony No. 5, Op. 52, "Sinfonia serena": II. Vivace ilare
Symphony No. 5, Op. 52, "Sinfonia serena": III. Lamentoso
Symphony No. 5, Op. 52, "Sinfonia serena": IV. Allegro spregiudicato

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