Christian Horneman and Asger Hamerik are two of
Denmark's almost-forgotten composers, despite the fact that between
them they counted Grieg, Wagner and Berlioz among their friends. They
were both part of the Copenhagen musical dynasty that flourished in
the 19th century. In fact, Horneman's mother and Hamerik's
mother were sisters, themselves cousins to the wife of one of Denmark's
more celebrated figures, J.P.E. Hartmann.
Fortunately, Danish specialists Dacapo never tire of trying to get their national composers wider recognition. A four-CD boxed set of Hamerik's symphonies, released in 2009, garnered critical acclaim - see review
. Last year the label released a disc of Horneman's orchestral music that likewise met with enthusiasm (review
Hamerik (originally 'Hammerich') actually wrote little chamber music - a piano quintet in C minor is his only significant work. The quartetto
in A minor is only six minutes long and may well have been part of a larger work that never materialised, or was lost. It works well as a filler between the two Horneman quartets though, being quite different in character, with an infectious ostinato that ought to secure it a place in more concert programmes. Incidentally, Hamerik's son Ebbe was also a notable composer, and the pair starred together in Danacord's 'Harmonious Families - Danish Compositions by Fathers and Sons' series (DACOCD 526 - review
Both Horneman's quartets are youthful works, but no less assured for it. The G minor work in particular has a coherence and wistful maturity that conceal the fact that it was written by a teenager. The andante second movement is very soulful. Though formally similar, the D major quartet is shorter and more upbeat - not as profound or memorable as the other, but still a fine piece of writing, recalling one or other of Nielsen's major-key quartets.
The Arild String Quartet have been around for fifteen years, but this is, rather surprisingly, their debut on CD. They play with apt alacrity, communicating equally both the intelligence and the vibrancy of Horneman's music, not to mention the sparkle of Hamerik's, in a persuasive fashion.
Sound quality is good, although there is quite a lot of reverberation, sometimes hinting at artificial provenance. The English-Danish booklet notes are by Inger Sørensen, who is both Horneman's biographer and an educational librarian. It comes as no surprise, therefore, to find them well written and packing much detail into a fairly small space.
The CD running time is disappointing, but that is certainly not true of the musicianship heard here.
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