The GOLDEN AGE of Danish Partsongs

THE GOLDEN AGE of Danish Partsongs
David Fanning, Gramophone
Mandag, 28. april Link til originalartikel

Two discs here drawn from the same rich fund of Danish ‘folk-like’ songs for amateur consumption and with some overlap of composers, yet highly contrasted in conception and presentation.

Paul Hillier’s idea is that the ‘Golden Age’ – a term used in Denmark to refer to the cultural richness of the first half of the 19th century – could equally well apply to the succeeding generations of song-composers, such as Carl Nielsen and Thomas Laub (long-standing friends who fiercely debated the appropriate style for such songs) and on into the late 20th-century in the work of Svend Schultz and Ib Nørholm. Under Hillier’s direction, Ars Nova Copenhagen perform a cappella, with meticulously shaded dynamics, articulation and colour. Apart from offering rather short measure at 53 minutes (they take a pragmatic view of how many verses to include for each song), their beautifully recorded and helpfully documented programme makes a valuable document for newcomers to and aficionados of this repertoire alike.

For their more generously filled disc (66'35") the Danish National Vocal Ensemble offer plainer singing but richly decked-out arrangements, plus Michala Petri’s florid descants. It seems rather pointless to debate ‘authenticity’ in a repertoire that is kept alive over the years as much through adaptation as by conservation. Suffice to say that if you respond well to the artier end of Carols for Choirs-style harmonisation, and if you like the idea of recorder overlays, this may be just your thing. For myself I found both aspects irksome after a couple of tracks and it took me half a dozen sessions to get through the disc. Gilding the lily is the kindest image I can find for it. Booklet presentation is miserly. Composers and poets are named, but that’s all.