Asger Hamerik: The Symphonies
29 September 2010
Los Angeles Times
The indefatigable Danish conductor Thomas Dausgaard, having recorded Rued Langgaard's 16 flamboyantly neo-Romantic 20th century symphonies, turns to another neglected, and I think more interesting, Danish symphonist, with a lovingly boxed set of Asger Hamerick's seven symphonies and Requiem. Hamerik, who was born in 1843, studied in Paris with Berlioz and wound up in Baltimore in 1871, heading the Peabody Institute for 27 years. There he wrote his symphonies and married an American student half his age.
Many of his symphonies were, in fact, premiered in Baltimore, which is a forgotten factoid of American musical history. But Hamerick's fame mainly remained in Denmark. The first six symphonies have French titles ("Poétique," "Tragique," "Lyrique," etc.). The last is a choral symphony with a text exalting life and welcoming death. These are works of generous spirit, melodies spilling out, harmonies going in slightly unusual places, pleasing to the ear and spirit. They are of their time, gorgeously played and warmly recorded by the Danish label DaCapo.