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Fini HENRIQUES (1867-1940)
Aphorisms, Op.6 –No.4 I Love (1976) [1:20]
The Picture Book (1899) [26:41]
Silhouettes, Op.38 (1911) [41:48]
Erotik, Op.15 (1896) [10:38]
Christina Bjørkøe (piano)
rec. 2018, Konservatoriets Koncertsal, Odeon, Odense
DACAPO 8.226150 [81:53]

Fini Henriques is enjoying some time in the sun. After decades largely of neglect several new recordings have appeared recently devoted to the music of the violinist and composer. This piano disc concentrates on the years 1896 to 1911 and three particular cycles; The Picture Book, Silhouettes and Erotik.

Billedbogen, or The Picture Book (1899) is made up of 20 brief character pieces, patterned after the model of Schumann’s Album for the Young. Most hover around the minute mark but one stretches for a daring 2:40. The work’s original and more expansive subtitle speaks of ‘twenty pictures of childhood life told for young and old by Fini Henriques’ and that sums up the charm and innocent pleasure to be encountered. They are brief childhood cartes de visite summoning up domestic-sized scenes and feelings, some joyful, some scampering, others wistful or hymnal, droll or quietly sad. Henriques was 32 when he wrote the set and a mature enough composer to ensure robust characterisation.
 
Silhouettes (1911) was published in two books of ten and is somewhat more expansive than the earlier cycle. Whilst Claus Rollum-Larsen makes clear in his excellent booklet notes that it’s a different kind of experience from The Picture Book, adding that it inhabits a ‘different universe’ is perhaps putting things too far. It still strikes a generally Schumannesque stance and it too offers compressed character studies. It’s true, though, that the harmonies can be more advanced, even on rare occasions ambiguous, and the level of technique required surmounting some of the faster movements is considerably in advance of that needed for the 1899 cycle. The model here is more Scenes d’enfants than Album for the Young. One finds insouciant verve, jovial characterisation with the minimum of means, dapper and concise jokes, a funeral march with a flowing B section, sonorous chording, a fine romance, emotions recollected in tranquillity and an apt sense of culminatory calm.

The earliest of the cycles is the five-movement Erotik (Eroticism) of 1896. Musical eroticism was all the rage – see Grieg and Sjögren a little before Henriques – but thoughts of a smorgasbord of lust and carnality are dashed by Henriques’ very prim and proper dalliances. A charming waltz and a demure romance coupled with some folkloric hues serve instead. The other work is an isolated movement from Aphorisms (1876), a youthful piece called I Love You (Jeg elsker) written when the precious composer was just nine years old.

The performances by Christina Bjørkøe are excellent – touching, warm, well-scaled - and she has been finely recorded too. Henriques’ pieces make few real demands on the listener but offer good material for a pianist young in spirit.

Jonathan Woolf



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