Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Leif KAYSER (1919-2001)
Kirkeruder (Church Panes) (1975); Hymne til hertug Knud (Hymn to Duke Knud) (1986); Concerto for Organ (1965)
Jorgan Ellegard Frederiksen on the organ at Helligandskirken
Recorded in November 2000 and in February 2001
DA CAPO 8.224167 [65.12]

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Leif Kayser, who died earlier this year, can lay claim to having been the most prolific Danish composer of Organ music in the 20th Century. He also composed concertos and much chamber music. He was an organist; indeed he gave the first performance of his ‘Concerto for Organ’ He studied music at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. His 1st Symphony was performed, with considerable success, as early as 1938. He was also a Roman Catholic priest from about 1942 onwards. He was the priest in charge of St. Ansgar’s Church, Copenhagen until in 1964 he was granted permission to leave to devote himself again to composition.

His musical language is difficult to pin down. The booklet notes by Jorgen Ellegard Frederiksen describe the music as existing "on a high artistic plane with great density of information" … He goes on to say that the music "inhabits a matchless world of spiritual richness and beauty".

Stylistically I sometimes heard bits of Vagn Holmboe and Marcel Dupré but to go further could be misleading. The style is not dissimilar to that of the late nineteenth century and the notes tell us that his style is also "profoundly personal".

Seven glass mosaic windows in the apse of Skovshoved church inspired ‘Church Panes’. They include movements entitled ‘The Fall’ and ‘Christ’ - both based on a Danish Hymn tune and ‘Alpha and Omega’ based on the plainchant melody Kyrie IV. The work is described as "free organ pieces in a cantata of hymns". It is an impressive work - one I will return to and although it is a spiritual work it is definitely not of the holy minimalist variety. Particularly striking is the opening unison melody striding out like a modern plainchant. When the harmony arrives it seems inevitable and uplifting.

The Concerto is slightly less original but a fine work which repays listening. It falls into five movements and lasts over half-an-hour. The booklet notes quote the opening of the first movement and demonstrate how the whole work is based upon just three motifs. It shows masterly control. A further more detailed analysis is given in the notes.

It is disappointing that the organ specification is not offered. I am no organ ‘buff’ but some information along those lines is ‘de rigueur’ nowadays. I feel that the music could be more colourfully conveyed. Is the organ not able to do so, or does the problem lie with the rather dull recording which, whilst perfectly serviceable, is far from vivid and strong? One good thing about it is that you can set the volume at the start and it is never so quiet or so loud that you have to keep getting up to alter it.

Jorgen Ellegard Frederiksen, organist of Absalon Church, Copenhagen, teaches at the Danish Academy of Music. He is a well known soloist in Denmark and has performed abroad. His particular interest is in the German Romantic tradition. He obviously believes strongly in these Kayser works and plays them with beautiful phrasing and sensitive registration.

It seems that more music by Kayser may be released next year - possibly the early symphony. Look out for it. The Danes have a way of never shouting about their talented artists, we have to search and when we find their music there are incredible discoveries to be made.

Gary Higginson

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