Knudåge Riisager: Orchestral Music
17 June 2010
This delightful collection of lighter music by one of the minor Danish composers originally came out as a plain standard CD in the 90s and has been so popular that the Danish label has decided to reissue it as a multichannel SACD. I don't know what technology they used, but the surround channels are quite low in level, as with most such re-created surround efforts. However, the front channels sound richer and with more presence than most standard CDs.
Riisager, who lived until 1974, studied in France with both Roussel and Paul le Flem, as well as in Germany, and the French influence can be heard in much of his music, along with shades of Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Bartok. However, Riisager has quite a personal style, throwing in some light dissonance here and there, using bitonality, and definitely having a good sense of musical humor. He composed primarily for the ballet, and just by the titles of some of these suites' sections you can get an idea of his sense of humor: Lazybones Polka, Procession of Gluttons, Dance of the Dishes, Dance of the Free Feet. The often ascerbic humor reminded me of Shostakovich's music.
These are not corny numbers in any way. Riisager's melodic gifts are strong. Listen to the gorgeous Pas de deux in the second Fools' Paradise Suite - one of the loveliest ballet selections I've had the pleasure to hear. And the orchestra plays with great savoir faire. The short Trumpet Concertino is a bit Stravinskian-sounding, with great playing from the trumpet soloist. The final six tracks are from another fairytale's music (12 By Mail is also a Hans Christian Anderson story) and in the section Dust Storm one will hear some very unusual vocal sounds coming from the chorus.