The Symphonic Edition, Vol. 1
Aarhus Symphony Orchestra
Bo Holten, conductor
I have to admit I had never heard of Knudage Riisager before I received this CD (let alone any of his music). But after listening to this outstanding recording, I want to hear more.
is now recognized as one of Denmark’s greatest composers, although
during his lifetime his music was received indifferently, forcing him to
support himself in other ways. Riisager studied in Paris in the early
1920’s and was deeply influenced by the cadre of composers there. In
this first volume of Riisager’s symphonic works, it’s easy to hear those
Riisager’s orchestral music is written in a
lush, post-romantic style, but no matter how many instruments are
playing, it always sounds clean and transparent. That Ravel-like
elegance is often offset by wry, humorous gestures that one might find
in early Stravinsky or Prokofiev. The end result is a music that shows
its influences, but remains absolutely unique.
first volume presents Riisager’s first symphony and four symphonic tone
poems. The tone poems, “Danish Pictures 1-4” reference various aspects
of Danish life and culture. Structurally, they remind me a little of
Richard Strauss’ tone poems. Collectively, the four Danish Pictures show
a lot of imagination, both in terms of melodic invention and
Riisager’s first symphony is pleasant
work of somewhat modest ambitions, but it succeeds completely in its
intent. The structure is well-defined, and the music just sort of ambles
along from one major theme to another. And what themes! They’re all
very attractive, practically inviting the listener to hum along.
The Aarhus Symphony Orchestra plays these works with confidence and
precision. Conductor Bo Holten is a composer as well, which may be why
the works on this album coalesce so beautifully. The performers believe
in this music, and that attitude is infectious.
I'll be revisiting this recording often.