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10/10 for Riisager on Classics Today


By David Hurwitz

Knudåge Riisager
was a born orchestral composer, and he seemed to understand exactly what kind of writing best suited his natural proclivities. The occasional sudden dissonance, sardonic brass commentary, bright woodwinds, and high-lying violin ostinatos all suggest comedy, and in the four overtures, especially Klods Hans (translated here as "Jack the Dullard") that's exactly what we get. You might think of Riisager as the Danish Malcolm Arnold, without the bitterness and melodrama. The music is rhythmically vivacious, full of good tunes, and wonderfully scored, even without special coloristic effects. Right from Riisager's Op. 1, the overture Erasmus Montanus, you can hear in the brass chording his splendid feel for sonority.

The First Symphony is a perky, three-movement piece that contemporary critics described as Stravinsky mixed with Puccini, but to modern ears it sounds like neither. It is indeed cast clearly in a neo-classical mode, and there's not a shred of obvious Scandinavian sound--amazing for the date of composition (1925), when Nielsen's influence was strongest in Danish music. It's not perfect--the outer movements could be better sustained--but the sheer charm of the work's ideas carries the day. The performances in this first volume of a projected series of Riisager's symphonic works are first-rate, and so is the engineering. Bo Holten and his players clearly relish the music's color and energy, and I can only welcome this release with great enthusiasm and high hopes for the series as a whole.


Read the review on Classics Today's website: here http://www.classicstoday.com/review.asp?ReviewNum=13560


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