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Fini HENRIQUES (1867-1940) Works for Violin and Piano
Johannes Søe Hansen (violin)
Christina Bjørkøe (piano)
rec. 2018, Konservatoriets Koncertsal, Odeon, Odense DACAPO 8.226151 [77:12]
Dacapo has released two handsome-looking discs devoted to the music of Fini Henriques. The companion piano version features three cycles but the one under review, also featuring Christina Bjørkøe, is devoted to his violin pieces. Henriques studied in his native Denmark and in Leipzig and made his mark as a quartet leader and soloist as well as a composer. Chronologically he was of the Danish ‘School of the 1860s’ alongside his contemporaries Louis Glass, whose music has retained a hold on the repertoire, and the giant figure of Carl Nielsen. Against these two Henriques might seem to offer little but morceaux but he was active in a range of genres – opera, ballet, orchestral and chamber music and had a large portfolio of songs to his name.
As an executant-composer he was perfectly placed to write small violin pieces. And as a recording artist, which he was, there was cachet in a Henriques-plays-Henriques disc, though in fact he recorded more widely than merely his own music. There are two cycles and a large number of sweetmeats and morceaux in this album that materially expands appreciation of his music in this area, though Dacapo doesn’t seem to make any claim for premiere recording status.
The programme isn’t chronological. Indeed, we plunge straight into his 1919 Romance, a Danish Salut d’amour if ever there was one, and a billowing, rolling brio-flecked Nordic Dance follows. He was swept up in the ‘erotic’ appellation, something to which Grieg and Sjögren before him had also succumbed, but Henriques was tied more to the spick and span charms of elegance than anything paralysingly Edvard Munch-like. Erotikon therefore serves the salon and not the boudoir.
One would expect dance movements and the capricious Mazurka with a sultry B sections works well in this regard and in his ‘Late Summer’ Romance he pushes the violin high – he must have had fine intonation and retained body of tone as a performer. Yes, there’s a Grieg-like Witches Dance and a plangently reverential Religioso. And there is his most famous piece, the Wiegenlied of 1915, a lovely little lullaby that he recorded. Listening to Johannes Søe Hansen’s fine performance one can’t help but recall the composer’s own virtues as a purveyor of expressive portamenti and, with his slower vibrato, a fine variety of colour.
Kleine bunte Reihe is a six-movement suite with witty titles. There are charming Baroque hints in the Pantomime, a droll Yes-Men, and a fast-moving Mosquito Dance that’s less like the Janáček folk song setting and more like Rimsky’s Bumble Bee. I’m not sure about the edition here as the composer recorded this twice and started violin solo with a thematic repeat. It may have been to bulk out the 78rpm disc as Hansen’s performance zips through in about a minute. That said, and irrespective of editions, I prefer the composer’s old disc with Borge Rosenbaum – known to you and me as Victor Borge – for its far greater sense of elation and wit. The final piece of the set is another Erotik, and again, it isn’t, at least not in the Szymanowskian or contemporary sense.
Novelettes, Op.26 date from 1905 and these are the most serious pieces in the recital, not only rather more expansive but also more sustained in mood. The Allegretto grotesco is probably the pick of the quartet of pieces with its energizing Hardanger-like effects.
With the Petite Valse showing a café-styled profile, one can sense the limited yet still virile variety of small-scale charms to be encountered in this disc. As with the piano disc the booklet notes are in the authoritative hands of Claus Røllum-Larsen whilst the recorded balance has been expertly judged.
No, Henriques’s little pieces aren’t going to set the world on fire but their modest aims and unpretentious warmth, allied to an engaging sense of character, should provide nearly 80 minutes of fun and sentiment.
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