Knudåge Riisager: Benzin
01 October 2008
The producers of this disc were certainly straightforward about the
terrible reviews this unusual ballet received at its premiere (and only
two other performances) in 1930. Excerpts: "Much of it consisted of
imitations of animal and machine sounds, but really with very little
originality...banal, stumpy, breathless scraps of music without head nor
tail, and not in the least funny, just some orchestrated
grimaces...pure honk-honk..." The Danish Royal Theater, which had
premiered it, had nothing to do with Riisager's ballet after that, but
it was telecast there in a shortened version in 1963.
Actually, the music is a kick-tonal and witty in the style of Satie's Parade.
It resulted from a collaboration between the composer and cartoonist
Storm Petersen. Some samples of his drawings are on the cover and in
the booklet. The simple scenario concerns a young farmer in love with
the innkeeper's daughter. A motorcyclist runs out of gas (‘benzin' in
Danish) in the village and the farmer offers to ride his bike to the gas
station to fetch a can. During his absence the motorcyclist comes onto
the girl, making the farmer furious when he returns. But after a scene,
all is settled peacefully with the girl exchanged for the petrol can.
The score is full of clever sound-painting instrumental ideas. For
example, many different playing approaches are employed on the
cymbals-which the higher-res surround aids in identifying. At one point
they evoke the cycle's noise, a tuba represents a cow lowing, and a
glissando in the celli becomes the snoring gas station attendant.
Archeopteryx is the missing link prehistoric bird-reptile; the
music is strange and rather static - this bird seems to be fossilized.
The closing work is translated To Apollo, God of Light, and is a
powerful ten-minute piece combining tonal and dissonant sounds for a
strong impression. It was written in l972, a year before the composer