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The Launy Grøndahl Legacy - Volume 5
Louis GLASS (1864-1936)
Symphony No 5 Sinfonia Svastica (1919) [33:46]
Rudolph SIMONSEN (1889-1947)
Symphony No 2 Hellas (1921) [20:20]
Hakon BØRRESEN (1876-1954)
Symphony No 2 The Sea (1904) [33:10]
Herman SANDBY (1881-1965)
Symphony No 4 (1947) [27:43]
P S RUNG-KELLER (1879-1966)
Suite in D major (1947) arr orch Leif Kayser (1954-55) [12:18]
Johannes ANDERSEN (1890-1980)
Suite No.1 for Orchestra in B major (1937) [25:11]
Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Launy Grøndahl
rec 1954-57, Danish Broadcasting Corporation, Studio 1
DANACORD DACOCD885 [74:07 + 79:02]

The bulk of this twofer was released on DACOCD 370-371 two decades ago under the title ‘Danish Symphonies of the Late Romantic Period’. Rob Barnett gave it a warm welcome here, noting its first incarnation as a gatefold double-LP, and its reappearance now, bulked out by two further non-symphonic works, comes as part of Danacord’s ongoing and very welcome series devoted to the art of Launy Grøndahl. This is the fifth twofer in the marque and is priced ‘as for one’.

The symphonies span the years 1904 to 1947. The earliest is Hakon Børresen’s Symphony No.2 ‘The Sea’, a colourful four-movement affair sitting securely in the romantic tradition. Its confident and simmering rhetoric allows Mendelssohnian winds in the descriptive Summer second movement, and some thunderstorm evocations, as well as an almost naïvely jolly tunefulness. The big-boned slow movement, called Tragedy, is capped by a bustling backward-looking finale.

Louis Glass’s Symphony No.5 (1916), subtitled Sinfonia Svastica, is a confident, lyrically rich work with vaguely almost-Elgarian hues from time to time in its romantic opulence, though the gauzy pastoralism of the second movement are more redolent of Delian harmonies. The sprite-like elements of the scherzo (called Shadows) are once again indicative of Mendelssohn’s influence though the stalking colour of the B section is all Glass’ own. By contrast the rapt dawn horns and birdcalls announce the emergence of a Tchaikovskian landscape full of lyric amplitude and a gloriously triumphant close.

Both these symphonies bear descriptive names for each movement and Rudolph Simonsen’s Symphony No.2 of 1921 does so in excelsis. This symphony, subtitled ‘Hellas’, is dedicated to his teacher of Greek, and pursues a defiantly ‘Classical’ three-movement structure moving from the opening Oresteia movement through Solitude by the Temples, and thence to the concluding Pallas Athene, Goddess of Victory. This is by far the most advanced work in this twofer, a gutsy bitonal symphony with terse, biting qualities that never let up in the first movement and are only relieved by the introspective calm of the opening. So complete a contrast is this to the preceding archaic vehemence that a gauze-like beauty envelops the work’s central third. The finale is Nielsen-like in places as Pallas Athene enacts a triumphant overcoming of the earlier baleful dramas so powerfully evoked by Simonsen. This is indeed a victory symphony; perhaps it reflects something of the world struggle too.

Herman Sandby’s name is invariably linked with that of Percy Grainger though his early prestige was earned in Philadelphia where he was Stokowski’s cello principal; the conductor was an eager proponent of Sandby’s compositions. His Fourth Symphony was composed in 1947 by which time he had long since returned to his native land. The wind and horn harmonies at the start of his three-movement work offer a sense of Delian fluidity whilst the slow movement is more lyric and affectionate than angst-ridden, though its stormiest paragraphs manage to remain malleably rhapsodic. Delian spectres flood the finale.

The two non-symphonic works are more than mere makeweights. P.S. (Paul Sophus) Rung-Keller was a distinguished and long-serving organist in Copenhagen whose Suite for Orchestra (1947) was originally cast for organ. His pupil Leif Kayser arranged the work for orchestra during 1954-55, excising three of the original eight movements and adding one taken from a piano work; it makes for a six-movement Baroque-orientated affair, of which its composer approved. There’s a grand opening, a rather lovely Aria and a charming Arabesco with felicitous wind writing and a finale that encapsulates fully, in its elan and brio, the spirit of the Baroque.

Written in 1937, Johannes Andersen’s Suite No.1 for Orchestra is cast in a much more romantic vein than the antique pleasures of the Rung-Keller. Andersen was originally a trumpeter who then became principal horn of the new Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra. The Suite was dedicated to Fritz Busch, a frequent visitor to the orchestra’s rostrum, and is a late-Romantic charmer, full of lyric and extrovert warmth, whose boisterous colour is balanced by its witty terpsichorean element; the dancing wit of the central Intermezzo might well have appealed to Busch’s nature.

It’s a warm welcome back to the bulk of this twofer and to the two extras. Martin Granau has written the notes with Mogens Wenzel Andreassen and the production has come up spic and span.

Jonathan Woolf

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