C.F.E. Horneman: Orchestral Works
06 June 2012
Christian Frederik Emil Horneman (1840–1906) was a Danish Romantic composer whose output is regrettably small and whose many ambitious ideas came to naught. Musically, if not personally, he fits in with the Nordic community of composers who were schooled in the ways of German music, either wholly or in part in Leipzig—Gade, Grieg, and Svendsen being among them. On his return to Copenhagen, Gade in fact became an important, if not entirely appreciated, influence on Horneman. (...)
If dictionaries could render their definitions in musical sound, the words Romantic and Romanticism would sing the melodies and harmonies of Horneman. Passion and drama run high, as does emotion that runs the gamut from an almost religious ecstasy and fervor—as in the Struggle with the Muses Suite, which reminds me of some of the religious music of Gounod—to the orgiastic Bacchanal in the same score. The only explanation for Horneman not being practically a household name, at least according to his biography, is that he suffered from a near-psychotic persecution complex and thereby managed to alienate most of Copenhagen’s musical establishment with his unfounded suspicions and allegations of imagined conspiracies against him. As Einar Christiansen, director of the Royal Danish Theater, put it, “Horneman possessed an innate facility for falling foul of people, even those who wished him the best, such that he sometimes fell into the comical situation of being unable to remember who was his enemy and who was not.” It’s really a shame, because romantic orchestral music in the post-Mendelssohn period doesn’t get any better than this. And as Anderson said in his review, “Without Horneman Nielsen’s music would have sounded very different.”
This Dacapo SACD is a real treat for the ears. It’s beautifully recorded, placing the listener in a seat midway back in the orchestra, which allows for enough distance to take in the entire width and depth of the stage, while still allowing individual instruments to be heard distinctly. The Danish National Symphony Orchestra under the able leadership of Johannes Gustavsson proves itself a world-class ensemble. This is very strongly recommended to all who enjoy being carried away by sweeping orchestral scores superbly played and magnificently recorded.