Heise, Weise & Lange-Müller: Kærlighedssange
18 October 2010
Scandinavian songs in general don't seem to have had very much international response. True, the output of Grieg and Sibelius is fairly well known. Some Swedish songs have also achieved an occasional airing through famous singers like Björling, Nilsson, Gedda and Söderström. That said, I doubt that the treasury of Danish songs has reached far beyond the specialist collectors. Aksel Schiøtz recorded a number of Carl Nielsen's songs some seventy years ago and they have no doubt reached legendary status but besides that very little is heard, I'm afraid; so much more the pity since there is a lot to admire. On this disc Dacapo present love songs by three important composers, representing three consecutive periods of the 19th
Chronological order of the composers would had been even more enlightening but as it is we get a fair picture of the best of Danish song writing from the period before Carl Nielsen.
Heise's Tannhäuser settings - the lyrics by the highly accomplished Holger Drachmann - are attractive. I skoven er der så stille
(The forest is so silent), the fifth, is a true gem, serene and beautiful - just as the title says - but the various songs from some of Heise's other collections are even more charming in their Schumannesque dress. Christian Winther's Vårsang I host
(Spring Song in Autumn) is fresh but agitated. Til en veninde
(To a lady friend) is lyric and simple. The through-composed Skønne fru Beatriz
(The Lovely Lady Beatriz) is expressive and Skovensomhed
(Forest Solitude) is calm and beautiful, sung with fine legato.
Weyse, born in Germany but a Danish citizen from the age of fifteen, is best remembered for his symphonies. He was greatly admired by Mozart's widow Constanze, who lived in Copenhagen for a number of years. Most of the songs represented here are from various Singspiele and plays. They are quite charming, simple, mostly strophic songs. Born four years after Beethoven he was steeped in the Classicism of Haydn and Mozart.
Lange-Müller was probably the most accomplished song-writer in his time and is highly regarded in Denmark. Most of his creations are rather melancholy but they are harmonically thrilling and there are touches of impressionism. Tre sange ved havet
(Three Songs by the Sea) possibly represent Lange-Müller at his best. They strike an ideal balance between the voice and the expressive piano accompaniments.
Mathias Hedegaard has a light lyric tenor, very agreeable and he makes the most of these songs. Occasionally, under pressure, his tone becomes rather hard and strident, but most of the time he is well suited to the music and he obviously loves the music. He is well assisted by Tove Lønskov and the recording is out of Dacapo's top drawer. Danish readers probably don't need any encouragement to rush to the nearest record store - if there is one - and buy this issue. This should be an enticing eye (or rather ear) opener for other readers as well.