Riisager: Orchestral Works
30 May 2012
American Record Guide
First released in 1998 on Marco Polo and now upgraded to SACD, this collection of works by Danish composer Knudige Riisager (1897-1974) was praised by our reviewer, Carl Bauman (July/Aug 1998). He wondered why the Concertino for Trumpet and Strings (1933) had not appeared on more recordings, and he would still wonder today - as far as I can tell, this is still the only one. It is a very attractive, neo-baroque work that takes frequent and unpredictable harmonic twists. It asks the soloist to play lightly and elegantly, and Swedish trumpeter Hakan Hardenberger does so with precision and purity of tone.
The rest of the program consists of character portrayals, none longer than five minutes. I thoroughly enjoy all of them. Like Tchaikovsky in The Nutcracker, Riisager was able to capture human traits (oddity, nobility, gentleness, etc) with attractive melodies, harmonies, and instrumentation. In the eight short movements that constitute Suite I from Slaraffenland (Fool’s Paradise, 1936), the Prelude and ‘Departure’ are lively and full of splendid brass parts; ‘Princess Sweets’ is like a lullaby; ‘Lazybones Polka’ is a witty dance that gives melodies to bassoons, trumpets, and tuba, among others; ‘The Royal Guardsmen’ has more glorious brass; ‘Fountains of Liqueurs’ has mysterious woodwind melodies; ‘Procession of Gluttons’ begins with low-brass grotesquery; and ‘Punctum Finale’ is a merry romp. Fool’s Paradise Suite II (1940), dances from the ballet Twelve by the Mail (1939), and dances from the fairy-tale play Darduse (1937) are all cut from the same cloth.
Mr. Bauman said “the Helsingborg Symphony (Elsinore) plays brilliantly for Thomas Dausgaard”, and I agree. It has a rich, full-bodied sound.