About this Recording
8.224089 - CARLSEN: Symphonic Suite / Choral Variations

Camillo Alphonzo Johannes Peter Carlsen (1876-1948) was born in the borough of Frederiksberg, inside the present Copenhagen city limits. His father was Head Cashier at the Public Trustee's Office as well as bookkeeper for what was then a home for the mentally deficient "Garnrnel Bakkehus", where he had his civil service residence. This was where Carlsen grew up, next door to "Bakkehuset", Rahbek's artistic and literary rendezvous of the previous century, an environment which "spoke of strong, rich memories of the great personalities of the Golden Age", as Carlsen himself put it. At an early age he began to cultivate music, probably at the urging of his mother, who as well as playing also dabbled in composition and poetry At 13 Camillo began to give lessons in the piano and violin, and at 14 he composed the music for a fragment of Hans Christian Andersen's tale The Elf of the Rose, as versified by Marie Villadsen, a well known figure and popular poetess associated with the S0nderrnarken resort. In 1899 Carlsen and Marie Villadsen also wrote a lullaby for the newborn Prince Frederik, the later King Frederik IX - a composition which brought a written acknowledgement from the Royal Family. 

In 1893 Camillo Carlsen won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, where he had Valdemar Tofte as his violin teacher and J.D. Bondesen as his theory teacher; but it was especially the organists and composers Otto Malling and Johan Adam Krygell who were to be important to the young musician. After the death of Carlsen's father in 1895, Malling became his fatherly friend and patron. The fact that Carlsen dedicated his eight piano pieces of 1898 to Malling should be seen in this light. Krygell, who was the organist at the Sct. Matthæus church in Vesterbro, Copenhagen, let Carlsen work as his deputy in 1896-1900, which gave him ample opportunity to gain practical experience. After taking his organ diploma in 1899 Camillo Carlsen was engaged by the newly-built church Kristkirken in Enghave Plads, Copenhagen - a parish which had in fact been separated out from Sct. Matthæus Parish. 

In these years Carlsen won ever greater recognition, as is particularly evident from the award in 1909 of the grant Det Anckerske Legat, which enabled him to go on an extended tour to Germany and Austria. It was the work The 80th Psalm for soprano, mixed choir, cello and organ which had qualified Carlsen for the coveted grant. Then in 1911 came his appointment as cathedral organist in Roskilde, where he followed Waage Weyse Matthison-Hansen. Until his departure from the post in 1946 Carlsen was above all able to indulge his rich talents as an improviser at the cathedral organ. It is characteristic that during the services he mainly improvised, and indeed for his contemporaries he came to represent a last echo of the Late Romantic organist ideal. It must be mentioned here that the post at Roskilde did not include the function of precentor, so for most of his period of service he had to be content to work with a precentor who can hardly be said to have shared his romantic attitude to church music - Emilius Bangert, who was a pupil of Carl Nielsen and was very sympathetic to Thomas Laub's anti-Romantic reform of the church singing. That Carlsen was a true Romantic artist is evident from an interview in connection with his departure from Roskilde Cathedral, where he expressed his view of the role of the organist. In the first place, thought Carlsen, one must distinguish between the organ player and the organist: the former plays from the music, the latter is a preacher at the organ. "He must have such a talent for improvisation that, drawing on his own spiritual resources, he can illustrate an introductory prelude in keeping with the text for the day or the special nature of the service." The interviewer, Ivan Salto from the paper Roskilde Tidende, then asked Carlsen: "So improvisation is your true form of artistic expression?" - "Yes, there is the potential for personal expression in a post as organist. One can improvise over the text for the day and to the hymn-singing, where one can use the harmonies to give vent to one's emotions in the special tone of every single verse of the hymn. There are infinite possibilities." Precisely this ability to be inspired by a textual basis is exploited to the full in what is perhaps Carlsen's most important work, the Sinfonische Suite for organ. 

Although Camillo Carlsen's output includes a large number of chamber music works, several compositions for orchestra as well as much vocal music, it is the organ music that has perpetuated his name. 

Camillo Carlsen's mighty Sinfonische Suite op. 28 was finished on 28th March 1908 and dedicated to Otto Malling. The symphony has an opulent sonority, powerful dynamics and is extremely expressive. Each of the four movements was inspired by a quotation from Psalm 42. This is dark, evocative music which fully meets the demands Carlsen makes on the organist in the above-mentioned interview. The movement titles used are typical of the Romantic "character piece", but the work as a whole fulfils one's expectations of the grand symphonic form, as the first movement is a full sonata-allegro, the second a slow scherzo, the third ("Prayer") an adagio, and the finale is in a weighty sonata form. With great panache, the suite exploits the possibilities offered by the big symphonic organ. There are abrupt transitions between thundering forte fortissimi and barely audible piano pianissimi, strong dynamic build-ups of tension which can only be executed with the aid of the crescendo roller, which gradually activates the stops of the organ, and the music requires a full sound that can only be achieved on a genuine Romantic organ with a rich selection of stops - especially the 8' stops. 

As an example of Carnillo Carlsen's chorale-based works his 10 Choralvariationen für Orgel üher den Psalm "Auf meinen liehen Gott" Op. 48, is recorded here. The melody is used in the Danish tradition for the hymn Fryd dig, du Kristi brud. The work, which was probably composed around 1930, has strong neo-Baroque features, in purely formal terms consisting of a regular partita in the style of the Baroque with the hymn tune taken through ten variations, each with its special textural character. The harmony differs greatly from the Sinfonische Suite with influence from the music of the twentieth century, for example bitonal effects. There can hardly be any doubt that Carlsen felt inspired by the rigorously disposed, often archaic partita works which the organ movement generated in these inter-war years. On the other hand, it comes as no surprise that he was unable to check his expression-seeking character as a musician. 

Peter Heise 

Peter Heise (1830-1879) is best known for his vocal music (the "romances" and the opera Drot og Marsk (King and Marshal). In the years 1857-65 he was a music teacher at the Sorø Academy School and thus also the organist at Sorø Abbey. From this period come the three organ chorales based on hymn tunes with a long history behind them in the Protestant church. The melody of Hvo ikkun lader Herren raade (Wer nun den lieben Got lässt walten) was composed by Georg Neumark and published in 1657. Hjertelig nu mig længes is by Hans Leo Hassler (1562-1612); it was written to the text "Mein G'müt ist mir verwirret". Nu bviler Mark og Enge has a melody by Heinrich Isaac (c. 1450-1517) originally written to the text "Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen". All three organ chorales are classic chorale reworkings with strict adherence to the cantus firmus (here the hymn tune). 

Rued Langgaard 

Rued Langgaard (1893-1952) had the organ as his main instrument, and in his particularly extensive output, of which the 16 symphonies are best known, the organ works also have a prominent position. Langgaard made his debut as an organist at a concert in Frederiks Kirke (the "Marble Church") in Copenhagen when he was only 13, and roused great attention there because of his artistic maturity. But fate decreed that he was not to have a permanent church position until the age of 47, when he was engaged as the cathedral organist in Ribe in 1940. Although Langgaard himself - and posterity - may have seen the appointment as a "banishment", this post at last gave him a working environment in which he could express himself as an improviser while continuing with his composing activity. 

The Toccata for Organ, composed in 1911 and dedicated to the memory of Niels W. Gade, was given its first performance by the composer himself at his second concert as an organist, which took place in the church Garnisons Kirke in Copenhagen on 10th November 1911. In 1935 and 1938 Langgaard reworked it into a shorter version. In the original, full-sounding version - which has been recorded here - the Toccata emerges as a splendid monument to Langgaard's greatly admired model. Although the work was composed three years after Carlsen's work, it is realized in a backward-looking yet intensified Gade-like style. 

Claus Røllum-Larsen 

In 1900, when Camillo Carlsen was appointed organist in the newly built church Kristkirken, in a parish which had been separated out from Sct. Matthæus Parish, he had at his disposal an organ from the firm of I. Starup & Søn. In 1927, Sct. Matthæus too acquired an organ from this firm, an instrument in romantic style, re-using pipe material from the church's original Busch organ from 1880. The new organ was to have 43 stops, but for financial reasons only 34 were installed. In 1957 the organ was expanded with eight new stops characterized by a German Baroque organ sound. This meant that its original character was to some extent obscured. With the most recent rebuilding in 1996 the organ in Sct. Matthæus church gained some stops from the Gamison church's old Starup organ (from 1924), which have replaced some of the most recently added stops, and thus the instrument has become a unique and well preserved example of the romantic-symphonic ideal, whose rich bass and wide-ranging dynamics suit Carlsen's musical idiom perfectly.

Close the window