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Ida Henriette D'FONSECA (1806-1858)
The Complete Works - 18 Songs
Helene Hvass Hansen (soprano)
Cathrine Penderup (piano)
Kammerkoret Musica
rec. 2018, Ny Sal, Royal Danish Academy of Music, Copenhagen
Podcast by Henrik Engelbrecht (in Danish) [10:47]

It is always fascinating to discover a composer whom I have not heard of. I am sure ‘out there’ some music enthusiast is already on their high-horse: What! France does not know the music of Ida Henriette d'Fonseca?’ The advertising blurb issued by Danacord for this CD takes my side. This, it trumpets, is ‘the first complete recordings of [the] forgotten (my italics) Danish Romantic female composer.’ And a search of MusicWeb International gives zero hits. Even Grove’s does not have an entry for her. In fact, apart from the liner notes and a short Wikipedia article, there seems to be very little information available. Fortunately, the repristinated scores of her songs have been uploaded to the sheet-music website IMSLP. The great thing is that we have on this CD her ‘complete’ works. As far as anybody knows there is nothing left to discover.

A few biographical facts will give a background to her songs. Firstly, Ida Henriette d'Fonseca was born in Copenhagen on 27 July 1806 (Wikipedia gives the years as 1802). Her background was Jewish: her father was of German-Portuguese descent hailing from Hamburg. After a musical education with of Giuseppe Siboni, who was the then choir-master at the Opera in Copenhagen, she entered that institution. Her voice was ‘somewhere between contralto and mezzo soprano.’ Ida Henriette d'Fonseca’s operatic debut was in Rossini’s Tancredi. Secondly, although her voice was much admired, her acting ability did come in for some criticism. Many of her roles were male characters. Furthermore, at that time, contraltos did not get the popularity they deserved. On the other hand, she was highly successful in the world of oratorio and latterly singing ‘romances’ which was a staple of the Copenhageners’ salons. Further employment ensued as a music teacher. And finally, she suffered ill health, which clearly caused problems: an international career never materialised. It is out of this lack of success that the songs were born. Ida Henriette d'Fonseca’ died on 6 July 1858.

The song texts are derived from a diverse group of writers and poets. Most prominent amongst them is the Danish poet and playwright Adam Oehlenschläger (1779-1850). Other important authors include J.W. von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller. As noted above, the eighteen songs presented on this disc is her entire extant catalogue. The songs themselves present a mix of Scandinavian ballads, German lieder and numbers conceived in the Italian operatic style with which d’Fonesca had had considerable performing success. Eight are sung in German, the remainder in Danish. Originally, these songs were published in two ‘booklets.’ The first, issued in 1848, included eight romances for voice and piano and a terzet for three voices (‘Maylied’). The second booklet was published in 1853 and contained another eight songs and one for vocal quartet (‘Wechsellied zum Tanze’). Many of these songs are ‘strophic’ with the same melody and piano part used for each verse. One example of a through composed song is the ‘Den elskende Bondeknøs’, (‘The Loving Peasant Boy’) which develops several moods in its six minutes duration. The accompaniments sound relatively straightforward.

Helene Hvass Hansen brings a special magic to these charming and varied songs. Her soprano is rich in tone, without being overpowering. The pianist, Cathrine Penderup is kept busy with many attractive accompaniments. They make an especially good team. The terzet and the quartet are enthusiastically sung by the Danish Chamber Choir Musica.

The liner notes present a sizeable essay introducing the life, times and music of Ida Henriette d'Fonseca. These are given in Danish, German and English. They are written by the musicologist Henrik Engelbrecht, who is currently the artistic advisor to The Royal Danish Opera and the Tivoli. The English version does tend to be a little ‘eccentric’ in places! The text of the songs is also presented in translation. There are the usual notices of the performers.
Included on the CD is an eleven minute ‘podcast’ presented by Henrik Engelbrecht. This is spoken in Danish, so, alas, I am unable to comment on its content. I did struggle to read these liner notes. To be fair, it is probably my eyes getting past their best. Even so, the font used for the song texts really is miniscule.

Ida Henriette d'Fonseca is no ‘lost’ Clara Schumann or Fanny Mendelssohn when it comes to an evaluation of the status of her compositions. On the other hand, virtually every song is a delight to hear, and, I imagine, a pleasure to perform.

This is an attractive CD which will demand the attention of all who enjoy the lieder tradition.

John France

Einsamkeit, (Loneliness), Wilhelm Müller [2:44]
Die Erwartung, (The Assignation), F. Schiller [7:14]
Den angrende Skole-Pige, (The Remorseful School Girl), Anon. [0:38]
Granen ved Lougen, (The Fir Tree at the Longen River), Johan Storm Munch [4:30]
Über die Berge dort, (Romance), Anon. [1:36]
Græd ei!, (Do not Cry), K.C. [2:54]
Der Abschied, (The Goodbye), J.W. von Goethe [2:03]
Den elskende Bondeknøs, (The Loving Country Boy), Adam Oehlenschläger [5:51]
Vinterangst, (Fear in Winter), Adam Oehlenschläger [0:46]
Zum neuen Jahr, (On the New Year) J.W. von Goethe [1:33]
Byrons Statue, Andreas Munch [6:08]
Regnbuen, (The Rainbow), Adam Oehlenschläger [2:32]
Die spröde Schäferin, (The Reluctant Shepherdess), J.W. von Goethe [1:06]
Vals og Romance ‘Mi eja Jente’ (Waltz and Romance: My own girl), Thomas M. [4:53]
Aly og Gulhyndy, (Ali and Gulhyndi), Adam Oehlenschläger [2:09]
Romance-Eccoet på Møn, (The Echo on Møn), Anon. [1:15]
Maylied, (May Song), J.W. von Goethe [3:57]
Wechsellied zum Tanze, (Invitation to the Dance) J.W. von Goethe [2:34]



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