About this Recording
8.223486 - GLASS, L.: Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6

Louis Glass (1864–1936)
Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6


Musical life in Denmark suffered in the early nineteenth century, as the Napoleonic Wars took their continued toll. It was not until the second quarter of the century that something of a revival took place, inspired in good part by the activity of Niels Gade, but parallel to the development of national music in other parts of Europe and elsewhere. The later part of the century and the early twentieth century brought to prominence Carl Nielsen as the most important figure in the music of Denmark. Nielsen’s pre-eminence has tended to obscure the not inconsiderable achievement of his contemporaries, not least Louis Glass, who was born in Copenhagen in 1864, the year before the birth of Nielsen, whom he outlived by three years.

Louis Glass was the son of a composer and piano teacher and was taught by his father. He later had piano lessons from A. Rudinger and cello lessons from Franz Neruda, and studied with Niels Gade before his debut, followed by further study in 1884 and 1885 at the Conservatory in Brussels under Wieniawski, the Polish composer and pianist Juliusz Zarebski and the cellist Joseph Servais. On his return to Copenhagen he worked as an orchestral player and as a pianist, making his Copenhagen debut as soloist in Schumann’s Piano Concerto and a cello concerto by Goltermann in the same week. Partial paralysis brought his playing career to an end, leaving him to devote his time to composition and to teaching, particularly in continuing his father’s work at the piano-teaching institution that he had established. His interest in teaching is shown in his foundation, in 1898, of the Dansk Musikpaedagogisk Forening, in collaboration with Hortense Panum.

As a composer Louis Glass is firmly in the romantic tradition, his training with Gade broadened by the acquaintance with French music that his stay in Brussels had brought him. The fifth of his six symphonies, the Sinfonia Svastika, an idyllic pastoral symphony, was written in 1919. It is an example of his style at its most successful, in a work that is clear in its general programme and technically proficient in its form. The movement titles give a clear indication of programmatic content, opening with all the busy activity of “Daily Toil”, followed by “Rest”, the gentle “Shadows” of evening, and a triumphant new “Dawn”, a finely wrought movement of lyrical intensity that never lapses into the meretricious or sentimental, but brings more than an echo of Sibelius.

The last symphony by Louis Glass, completed about 1926, has the explanatory title Skjoldungeaet, “Birth of the Scyldings”. The Scyldings are the Danes, descendants, like Beowulf, of the legendary hero Scyld. At the head of the score the composer quotes the words of the Danish romantic poet Ingemann: Stig op fra graven, du Slffigt, som dode. Bevar os Ira udslettelsens dom (“Rise up from the grave, you races that are dead. Protect us from the judgement of extinction”). There is an evocative sostenuto opening to the symphony, with a curiously pentatonic figure, before the heroic Allegro. A gentle enough Scherzando, that nearly betrays a debt to Stravinsky, takes its brief course, leading to the stormy jousting of Giostra, with its momentary relaxations of tension. The sinister tones of the Maestoso are replaced by the gentle lyricism of the opening of the Adagio. The movement ends with a solemn funeral march, followed by the triumphant final movement, again devised with the skill and artistry of a symphonist, including contrasting episodes of some beauty.

Keith Anderson

Close the window