Knudåge Riisager: Violin Works
01 October 2013
American Record Guide
Mark L. LehmanDanish composer Knudage Riisager
(1897- 1974) was less influenced by his great countryman Nielsen than by Poulenc, Stravinsky, and his teacher Albert Roussel. Gallic charm and neoclassic clarity, rather than Nordic nature epics, were his goals. His music is bright and brilliant, clean-lined in texture, diatonic but spiced with pungent harmonic clashes. It's typically vivacious, flamboyant, whimsical, spiky and tart, or sweetly romantic, but almost never brooding or deeply passionate. Riisager wrote quite a bit: symphonies, tone-poems, overtures, quartets, sonatas, over a dozen ballets, and much more - a fair portion of it by now recorded.
The violin pieces on this new Dacapo hybrid SACD are, I'm happy to say, superbly performed and recorded - an essential virtue for music that depends much on high spirits and instrumental showmanship. The nine works date from 1914 to 1952. Seven are for violin and piano. Bricconata (Prank), Aquarelle, Palavas, Romance in C, Minuet, and Sovesang (Lullaby) are short items, the fast ones giddy and acrobatic, the slow ones melodious and tender. Sonata 2, from 1924, is a fullscale three-movement effort, its 20 minutes more often lyrical than assertive.
Two other violin pieces are differently scored: a concise (9-minute) Concertino for five violins and piano, and the 16-minute Sonata for Two Solo Violins (as it's called). The Concertino is light-hearted and impish, the violin duo tuneful and clever. I've known and admired this last work for decades from the rendering on an old ten-inch monaural London LP and am delighted to hear it now in Dacapo's luscious sonics and the polished and sympathetic playing of Johannes Søe Hansen and Anne Søe Iwan.