C.F.E. Horneman: Orchestral Works
01 March 2012
Classical Music Sentinel
One need only listen to the simple melancholic beauty of the second movement of the Gurre Suite, or the up-tempo musical tricks of the Dance of the satyrs from the Contest with the Muses, to start wondering why music of this calibre has been ignored and neglected for so long. Aside from a recording on BIS from the mid-90s devoted exclusively to this composer's music and a few odd pieces on Danacord and Sterling, very little of his music is heard on CD, or on stage. Mind you Danish composer Christian Frederik Emil Horneman's (1840-1906) output was rather limited. He spent too much time and energy on travel, failing ventures, musical societies and teaching. He also suffered from a persecution complex which made him believe his music was inferior. This paranoia led him to distance himself from supporters (Grieg for example) whom he thought were detractors.
Nonetheless it was during his study years in Leipzig that he absorbed most of his musical material. To me his music seems to bear a stronger resemblance to some of his contemporaries from the east, including Smetana, Glazunov and Tchaikovsky, but with a stamp all his own. He never wrote long and complex symphonic works or concertos, but obviously excelled at the short form. Romantic subjects seemed to ignite a spark of creativity within him, as exemplified by the love story of King Valdemar Atterdag and Tove, in the castle at Gurre, which inspired many Danish writers and composers, including Horneman's own cousin Asger Hamerik (...), who wrote an opera on the subject entitled Tovelille. As mentioned above, some of the music to this is very touching and reveals a composer who could capture the essence of an emotion within a five minute time frame. Horneman's music is not groundbreaking, but it certainly is the work of a craftsman.
This composer's music was long overlooked for all the wrong reasons, and hopefully this new Dacapo recording will convince other musicians to dig it out of the Danish archives. Conductor Johannes Gustavsson, who has premièred over thirty orchestral works by Nordic composers, is in his comfort zone here with the music of C.F.E. Horneman, and brings out all of its colors and charm. The outstanding Danish National Symphony Orchestra is caught in top form in this SACD mastered studio recording by Dacapo, Denmark's national record label.