Finn Høffding: Orchestral Works
04 September 2012
Finn Høffding (1899-1997) is a crucial figure in 20th-century Danish music. Although never Nielsen’s student, he was his friend and – following a career-changing meeting with Hindemith – became a hugely influential teacher, whose pupils included Vagn Holmboe and Per Nørgård, who writes a testimonial to his former master in Dacapo’s booklet.
Stylistically, Høffding’s music lies somewhere between Nielsen, its bedrock, and Holmboe, with a neo-classical overlay betraying Hindemith’s influence, yet he remained his own man throughout his career. The earliest work here is the Third of his five symphonies, from 1928, a beautifully balanced four-movement work on classical lines, scored transparently for an ensemble of 40 players. This is no pastiche score but a reinvention of Classical models that has more in common with Busonian aesthetics than Prokofievian parody, and a cool grasp of the dramatic in the Lento molto e espressivo. The filigree scherzo is a delight, the whole a real find.
The couplings show Høffding evolving a prototype of the metamorphosis technique Holmboe would perfect later. Styled symphonic fantasias, Evolution (1939) embodies the idea of growth, while Det er ganske vist (‘It is perfectly true’, 1943) is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s cautionary tale about gossip. Similar in ethos to Paul Creston’s A Rumour, Det er ganske vist is built on a bigger, subtler scale, its clucking bassoon motif transformed unrecognisably in its 10-minute duration. The Jena Philharmonic’s playing under Frank Cramer’s sympathetic direction is a delight, and Dacapo’s sound is excellent. These performances repay repeated listenings, the hallmark of a splendid disc.