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Nørgård and Nielsen Songs

Per Nørgård

Lars Thodberg Bertelsen, baritone
Per Nørgård, piano

CD 8.224170 (Discovery Records UK)
Full information at http://www.dacapo-records.dk

1. My leaves, my little tree, Vedi’s Lullaby, op. 14 (1956-57)
2. Peace (1955)
3. Scenery, op.14 (1956-57)
4. You should plant a new tree (1967)
5. Landscape (1961)

The Open, op. 2
6. The Oxen f
7. Into the stone I go
8. The Sea

9. The Thunderstorm, op. 14 (1955)
10. The Jutland Wind, op. 14 (1955)

11. Calvary (1962)
12. Dream Song (1981/87)

From: Tue Bentsøn’s Songs, op. 27 (1960)
13. Remove the wine, you foolish boy
14. The evening is drawing on
15. No, my fingers are too stiff
16. Sleep soundly, little lyre
17. Do you remember the little foot
18. My knife was gone
19. Boy! Love twenty thousand

20. Winter Night, op. 14 (1955-57)
21. The Year (1976)
22. At the Himmelbjerget, op. 14 (1955-57)
23. Heaven-Fallen (Joy of Christmas) (1985)

Magdalene Songs (1991)
24. Calling Dreams
25. Dream voices
26. Late meeting
27. Star Mirror (1987)

Two CDs of songs from leading Danish composers of the 20 C have been received - repertoire which has failed to cross the North Sea and remains totally unknown in UK.

Per Nørgård’s piano songs to Danish texts - most of them recorded here - range from the first works of the 20-year-old newly-fledged composer to the present day. In a cross-section through his oeuvre the songs exhibit the melodious side of the composer and give hints of the currents of the period and the Danish poets who have inspired Nørgård over some fifty years.

The treasurable and unique selection of Per Nørgård’s piano songs to Danish texts covering fifty years of composition (1955 - 2001) is quite other; providing a wide conspectus of the idoms discovered by this stylistic chameleon. When studying with Nadia Boulanger in the '50s, he was closer to Scandinavian composers and nature poetry; many of the earlier songs are strophic an about nature, that a theme which never left him. In the sixties he explored the new methods, rejected 12-tone seralism but discovered his own 'infinity series' which has long served him as a fruitful basis for rhythmic freedom in melodic development.

Norgard found the experience of rehearsing, and accompanying his songs which go back so long, a strange but gratifying experience, with fundamental 'nature lyricism' the focus of most of those he selected for recording. He pays trbute to his young singer and so do I. Lars Thodberg Bertelsen is an empathic if not flawless baritone, light and intimate in manner here (in opera he has done Gunther as well as Papageno) and his association with the composer is perpetuated in a perfectly balanced studio recording at Danish Radio House.

Carl Nielsen

I regret to have to say that I feel the Nielsen CD is one strictly for enthusiasts who must have everything by this great composer and national father figure; there are only a few hints of the distinctive language of the composer we love. Well regarded in his own country for their folk-like melodies and simplicity, there are catchy popular song and more experimental art songs, but I shall be unlikely to return to them.

The Nørgård disc is by contrast unique, very personal and treasurable, and strongly recommended. Good notes (Ivan Hansen) and parallel, well aligned Danish/English texts make it a pleasure to follow the Danish; an immense advantage over those productions with only synopses in translation.

Peter Grahame Woolf


© Peter Grahame Woolf