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Ida Henriette d’FONSECA (1806-1858)
The Complete Works
Helene Hvass Hansen (soprano)
Cathrine Penderup (piano)
Kammerkoret Musica
rec. 2018, Royal Danish Academy of Music

This utterly charming CD is the first complete recording of Ida Henriette d’Fonseca’s eighteen songs. I admit to being quite surprised by it, as I had not been aware that there was a Danish Lied tradition. Some might find the songs too sweet, but they are all well composed and possess a merit in their own right.

Born in 1802, the Danish alto and composer Ida Henriette d’Fonseca made her debut at the Royal Opera Copenhagen alongside her sister in 1827. From 1829 to 1834, she toured Europe and was regarded as one of the finest singers and prima donnas in Scandinavia. Retiring from her opera career in 1840, she turned to teaching and composing, whilst holding the post of royal court singer. Her first composition was published in 1848, only ten years before she died. You will hear bits of Mendelssohn, Schubert and Italianate coloratura here and there (actually quite a lot of the latter), but Fonseca’s style combines influences in a most agreeable and organic fashion. Despite her output being small and consisting only of songs, she and her compositions are well worth discovering.

As her Lieder are so heavily and heavenly Italianate, having them sung by classically trained, coloratura opera singer Helene Hvass Hansen is a real bonus. She studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen in 2008 and trained in Bologna with Alain Billard. She is accompanied by the very capable Cathrine Penderup, a lecturer at the University of Copenhagen, who has recorded many CDs as a solo pianist as well as accompanist. Hansen’s singing is spot on and adds a vibrant colour to these intriguing songs. The Kammerkoret Musica adds a sound musical backdrop to tracks 17 and 18 on this CD.

The appearance of this recording is surely due to the recent, increased interest in forgotten or neglected women composers, and we find ourselves in the fortunate position of being able to listen to these gems on record for the first time. D’Fonseca’s Lied (or Sang) compositions are based on both German and Danish texts. Luckily, the booklet, in English only, provides translations as well as details of d’Fonseca’s life and career; given this rediscovery and her recent rise from obscurity, these notes are most welcome and helpful. As a bonus, a podcast on her life and compositions is included on this CD, albeit only in Danish.

Her compositions certainly will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they are very enjoyable over a cuppa, which will add extra sweetness to them. If I had known of her songs before, I would have greatly anticipated this release; now I relish its discovery.

Max Burgdörfer

Previous review: John France

Einsamkeit [2:44]
Die Erwartung [7:14]
Den angrende Skole-Pige [0:38]
Granen ved Lougen [4:30]
Über die Berge dort [1:36]
Græd ei! [2:54]
Der Abschied [2:03]
Den elskende Bondeknøs [5:51]
Vinterangst [0:46]
Zum neuen Jahr [1:33]
Byrons Statue [6:08]
Regnbuen [2:32]
Die spröde Schäferin [1:06]
Vals og Romance “Mi eja Jente” [4:53]
Aly og Gulhyndy [2:09]
Romance-Eccoet på Møn [1:15
Maylied [3:57]
Wechsellied zum Tanze [2:34]

Henrik Engelbrecht       
Podcast: Ida d’Fonseca (in Danish) [10:47]



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