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Len Mullenger:

KING FREDERIK IX (of Denmark) (1899 -1972) conducts The Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra in:-

Overture: Tannhäuser. Overture: Rienzi
Symphonies 3 and 7
Last Spring
Echoes of Ossian
: Prelude to the Royal Guest
dacapo 8.224158-59 2CDs [146:20]

HM King Frederik IX and HM Queen Ingrid with their daughters HRH Princess Margrethe (later MH Queen Margrethe II) and HRH Princess Benedikte, in the Royal Box at the Danish Radio Concert Hall.

(These CDs have been released on the occasion of the 90th birthday of HM Queen Ingrid, the Queen Mother, on 28th March 2000; and by special permission of Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II and Her Majesty Queen Ingrid)

Probably King Frederik IX of Denmark was unique in the annals of royal patronage, in extending his love of music to a passion for conducting, as his favourite pastime. As Crown Prince, and at a very early age, he had set his heart on conducting. His early experience embraced conducting small ensembles of family and friends and close members of the court, and conducting gramophone records (noting in his scores where the 78 rpm records were to be turned or changed). In 1938 he was asked to take over the patronage of the Royal Danish Orchestra's Widows Pensions Fund Concerts. At the same time he was offered the opportunity to conduct one of the rehearsals for an upcoming concert. This was the beginning of a long collaboration with the orchestra in which the King conducted closed orchestral rehearsals where only a few privileged were permitted to attend.

In 62 registered concerts, 107 programme items were performed, amounting to 51 different works by 18 composers with the works of Wagner and Beethoven most frequently performed: 17 and 36 respectively.

On the strength of these live recordings, His Majesty might well have had a flourishing career as a conductor if he had been freed of his royal duties. His Wagner is bold and often quite fiery. His Beethoven is crisp and fervent with an eye to detail and drama and his Grieg poignant. The most interesting items on this set are the works by his Danish compatriots Gade and Borresen (a pity Nielsen is not included). The reading of Gade's Echoes of Ossian has great nobility and heroism together with an affecting lyricism while the more fairy-tale like Prelude to The Royal Guest (Børresen) is both regal, and graceful and charming.

The Cedar refurbishments of these performances recorded between 1949 and 1954 are excellent.

An intriguing release


Ian Lace

and Harry Downey adds:

Musical history has many instances of Royal involvement in the art. Sometimes as generous patrons, sometimes as composers - Prince Albert wrote a few songs and Henry VIII too had a reputation as a songwriter. ("Greensleeves" is still largely believed by many people to be his work - perhaps it sold well and is the origin of the word Royalties?). Frederick the Great played the flute and was a decent composer and, of course, there is always King Porter who stomped a bit.

King Frederick IX of Denmark (1899 - 1972) had a genuine love of music that began in his boyhood. He had piano lessons from twelve years of age and quite soon after that he showed interest in conducting. His parents too loved music, and young Frederick followed their tastes in his passion for a limited selection of composers, of whom Beethoven and Wagner were favourites then and remained so throughout his life.

He conducted a small orchestra in private Court circles as early as 1915, but it was not until 1938 that he was able to conduct a full professional symphony orchestra, a rehearsal with the Royal Danish Orchestra, an event that became an annual one. After the war in 1946 the then Crown Prince was asked to conduct a performance of Cavelleria Rusticana. In 1948, Frederick conducted the RDO in a fund raising effort for the UN. The recordings were offered as prizes in a national lottery - Frederick's name did not appear, the crowned royal monogram was the indication of the conductor.

The first time the King conducted and there were critics present was at a special concert in Sweden. Semi-private in nature, the critics who were there stressed the King's love of the music and his familiarity with the scores. In later years, the King conducted regularly in closed concerts, largely with the Danish National Radio SO, and records show 62 concerts in total with 107 different items. Wagner orchestra pieces and Beethoven symphonies accounted for nearly one half of these.

Normal criteria do not apply in any comments on the contents of these discs - the release of which has been approved by the present Royal household. We have a well-intentioned, musically literate amateur in unedited performances. One can initially simply admire the chutzpah of a man willing to tackle two staples of the symphonic repertoire - and even more, to allow recordings to be made and be out there somewhere, lurking like some Damocletian sword. The performances are not at all bad. Quite decent, in fact, and subject of an "innocent ear" playing some day might cause slight embarrassment. There is not the feeling that the conductor is following a professional orchestra, they are undoubtedly being led by him as the many instances of shading and variations show. All the recordings are from the 40's and early 50's - some in pre-tape days so standards of sound quality vary.

This is not a release with appeal for the wider public, but a minority could find it intriguing.


Harry Downey


Ian Lace

Harry Downey

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