Two mammoth releases present Peter Heise
The Danish composer Peter Heise is known for his lyrical and melodical talent. Now his great opera success Drot og Marsk (King and Marshal) is being released in a new recording from The Royal Danish Theatre as well as his collected songs – almost 300 all told – sung by 18 different singers, accompanied by the promoter of the project, the pianist Christian Westergaard.
Peter Heise (1830-79) began to compose songs at an early age, and was already known during his lifetime as Denmark’s best composer of art songs. In 1876-77 he wrote the tragic opera in four acts Drot og Marsk, which was given its first performance at The Danish Royal Theatre in 1878 – the year before Heise’s early death.
This month two major issues of Heise’s music are to be released: the operatic success Drot og Marsk and Peter Heise: The Song Edition, which collects together all of Heise’s songs.
The first total edition of Heise’s songs
Peter Heise: The Song Edition is one of the largest Danish music releases ever. It collects all of Heise’s almost 300 songs together for the first time, well over half of which are first-time recordings, on no less than 11 CDs that cover various themes, organised by the promoter and pianist of the recordings, Christian Westergaard. The many songs have been recorded over four years, from 2016 to 2020, by no less than 18 singers, including Elsa Dreisig, Bo Skovhus, Signe Asmussen and Jakob Bloch Jespersen.
“Heise’s songs are a great musical treasure, and they deserve to be presented complete. I hope this release will succeed in making them more widely known and respected. There are many good reasons for bringing his songs out into the light, for Heise was a master of melody, and his songs belong the best art songs existing in Danish,” Christian Westergaard explains.
Great opera success in a new production
Drot og Marsk is one of Denmark’s most famous operas, based on the dramatic story of the regicide which took place in Finderup Barn in 1286. It has been performed more than 200 times at The Royal Theatre and was included in the Danish cultural canon in 2006.
In 2019, the production by The Royal Theatre of Drot og Marsk, directed by Amy Lane and Kasper Holten, was a resounding success. It had a star-cast of singers, featuring Peter Lodahl and Johan Reuter as the rivals King Erik V and Marshal Stig as well as Sine Bundgaard, Gert Henning-Jensen and Sofie Elkjær Jensen, accompanied by The Royal Danish Orchestra, conducted by Michael Schønwandt – and it is this version of Heise’s opera which is now being released on Dacapo Records.
Heise for the international audience
Drot og Marsk was performed in Stuttgart in 1906, but apart from this it has never been performed outside Denmark, and Heise’s enormous number of songs is almost completely unknown to international audiences – partly because the songs are mainly in Danish and partly because until now there have been extremely few recordings. With this large-scale presentation of Heise in the two new releases there is now a great opportunity for international audiences to discover Heise’s music – particularly because The Song Edition also contains a selection of songs in new German, English and French translations.
Drot og Marsk is to be released on 5 February, while The Song Edition will be available a week later, on 12 February. They will be issued both on CD and as streaming.