Knudåge Riisager: Violin Works
25 March 2013
A once quite well-known composer, in pieces he was not so well-known for.
Knudåge Riisager (1897–1974) was born in Estonia and studied at Copenhagen University where he received violin lessons from Peder Møller, and studied music theory under Otto Malling and Peder Gram. For most of his life he worked in a government job, and as a composer almost as an avocation. In 1923 he went to Paris to study with Albert Roussel who had a decided influence on his music. Most of his work, at one time quite popular, was in the field of ballet, and he composed over 15 pieces in this genre. The music up until the time of his Paris sojourn is lovely, melodic, and quite affable in a nondescript yet pleasantly unmannered and engaging fashion. After the encounter with Roussel a type of modernity crept into his work that elevated it to a new level altogether.
On this disc, despite the fact that his chamber output is quite sparse, we are able to trace this development. Listening to the character pieces we are transported to an early 20th century sense of grace and parlor, yet when encountering the Sonata No. 2 we immediately get a sense of his newfound abstract vision still coupled with his remarkable propensity for melodic creativity and overall sense of extended line. Rarely have I heard such an engaging and thoroughly rousing set of sonatas as these here, especially considering the varied and highly unique—in the case of the five violin sonatas—formats of these pieces.
The sound on this recording is extremely warm and enveloping, a model of how chamber violin should be captured in surround. Johannes Soe Hanson is the Concertmaster of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, a position he has held since 1992, and his playing is superb, as are all the artists here. This is a surprising disc, one of those jewels you don’t often expect, and well worth your time and money.