About this Recording
8.224092 - BORRESEN / HEISE / GLASS / NIELSEN: Cello Miniatures

Music for Cello and Piano

There are so many short pieces for cello and piano from the Danish Romantic period that the dacapo CD with the title cello and Piano (8.224052) was not enough to cover all the ground. The six composers here were, with a single exception, among the best known of the age in Denmark, but almost none of the pieces on the CD has been recorded before, and today they arc unknown music even to Danish audiences.

The oldest of the composers on this CD is Peter Heise (1830-1879), and he is also the one out of the six who wrote most music for echo - three sonatas as well as eight shorter pieces with piano accompaniment. One of the sonatas can he dated to 1867, since it was written for two Italian musicians, Ferdinando Furino and Giovanni Sgambati, whom Heise met during a stay in Rome that year. Two of Heise’s miniatures on this CD, Agitato and Con fuoco, can on the other hand be dated back to 1851, and the others may well be contemporary with them. The two pieces are in a manuscript book from his youth with the disarming heading Gruelige Viser (Terrible Songs). They are dedicated to the cellist Julius Holm, and were moss likely written for private musical get-together. Among the other pieces not recorded here there is even one with the title Tooteloot for Violoncello and Fortepiano!

Peter Heise is one of the most important Danish composers from the latter half of the nineteenth century. His many songs, have been printed in large editions over the years, and although in this field he is the equal of the best foreign composers of his day, his romances and his national-romantic opera Drot og Marsk (King and Marshal) have overshadowed his other works.

Heise was an excellent pianist, but also had a great feeling for cello writing. These small pieces benefit greatly from his melodic talent, and the melody bears the whole structure in them. In the style of Mendclssolm’s Lieder ohne Worte, it seems that Heise simply wanted to find a use for tunes that he just happened to have up his sleeve.

At Heise’s summer residence in 1871 a group of composers formed the publishing concern Samfundet til Udgivelse af Dansk Musik, the Society for the Publication of Danish Music. The aim was to issue unpublished major works from both older and more recent Danish music. On the evening of the foundation the actual “ideas man” was of course also present - his name was Jacob Fabricius (1840-1919). Fabricius was involved in many important events in the Danish musical life of the age. He was the prime mover when he and his contemporary colleagues C.F.E. Horneman (1840-1906) and Otto Mailing (1848- 1915) founded the society Koncertforeningen in 1874 to deal with the progressive music of the day. Jacoh Fahricius was also behind the negotiations that led to the great ball of the present Odd Fellow Palæ in Copenhagen becoming the country’s leading concert hall, Koncertpalæet. And then Fabricius was Peter Heise’s only composition pupil. However, his own compositions did not reach many ears at the time, and today he is a completely unknown name.

Jacob Fabricius wrote among other things a lot of vocal music, a National-Romantic opera (Skøn Karen) and orchestral works, including a symphony entitled Tivoli. He had his works performed more often abroad than in Denmark, where he made his living throughout his life as a banker. After beginning as a bookkeeper lie ended his career in the National Bank, highly placed in society with the rank of etatsråd or titular Councillor of State. As a composer, however, he remained a withdrawn figure in Denmark.

Fabricius wrote a number of pieces for cello at the urging of a French cellist who had participated in a performance of his music. In particular, songs with an obbligato cello part became a specialty for Fabricius; but he also wrote pure instrumental pieces for the instrument. His Ballade and Dormeuse were both dedicated to his son Otto. The music scems French-influenced, melodious and sensitive, and shows he had a fine ear for harmony. With the unusual title Dormeuse Fabricius was probably referring to the situation where the child had already heard a berceuse, and had thus fallen asleep! At all events the piece is touching with its gentle fatherly love, and sure in its sensitive melodic and harmonic turns of phrase, which handle the situation with taste.

Louis Glass (1864-1936), with his background as both cellist anti pianist, had a fine basis for writing works in this genre.

As a child he was taught music by his father, who was a pianist, and Louise Glass had his official debut in 1882 on both instruments.
Glass was a Copenhagener from a fine old family. He was a highly esteemed teacher, and he conducted, debated and performed as a piano soloist and with chamber works. As a composer he kept his roots in use Romantic musical culture throughout his life, but it was a culture in whose development he himself was a leading light in this country, in keeping with his times. Abroad, he made the acquaintance of César Franck’s music, and he was the first to play Franck’s chamber works in Denmark. Bruckner’s symphonies also left their mark on him, and Glass’s later works were also greatly influenced by his immersion in Theosophy, the religious philosophy that fascinated Scriabin too.

Louis Glass wrote many works, especially orchestral works and chamber music. Three of the chamber works are for cello and piano (his Sonate and Romance are recorded on Cello and Piano, dacapo 8.224052). Foraarssang (Spring Song) op. 31 was probably written in 1902, and was published in versions with both piano and orchestral accompaniment. The piano writing seems “orchestrated” in the motion of its parts, so the orchestral version may well have come first. It is a very well-turned, sweeping piece with effective harmony - and actually a rather dark piece of spring music from a composer who was often criticized for “brooding’’.

Three Danish composers were born in 1876, and together they paint a fine picture of the schools of together they paint a fine picture of the schools of thought in the Danish music of the age.

Hakon Børresen (1876-1954) was responsible for a brilliant, masculine stately kind of music, trained as he had been by the Norwegian orchestra leader and conductor Johan Svendsen. Børresen made an impact around the turn of the century, and was prosperous enough to he able to compose as he wanted. He excelled particularly in orchestral music. Three large symphonies and a violin concerto are among his best know orchestral works, and he also bad some success with opera and ballet. However, with the years much of his time was spent as an administrator and ambassador for Danish music, and he was a very strong chairman of the Danish Composers’ Association. Artistically, he stuck to the foundation he had laid at the beginning of the century, and in the last decades of his life, when he had survived almost all his like-minded colleagues, he did not write much music.

Børresen’s Romance and the two character pieces Deux Pièces are relatively early works. The Romance, with its highly effective melodiousness and outgoing mood (the cello part often soars up to a high pitch) is quite typical of Børresen. The piece also exists in a version with orchestral accompaniment. The Deux Pièces were written with the same feeling for effect, and the slightly square-cut character of the Serenade reveals some Børresen’s dry humour.

Less known today is Jens Laursøn Emborg (1876- 1957). Emborg earned his living teaching at a teachers’ training college and as an organist in Vordingborg in southern Zealand. He had trained as a teacher before he began studying the organ, violin and composition in Copenhagen with, among others, the composer Otto Malling, the Principal of the Royal Danish Academy of Music.

J.L. Emborg was a very productive composer, and wrote music in all genres - opera, instrumental concertos, five symphonies, chamber works, songs and choral works. In his own time the works were performed often - abroad too - but hardly any of them are known today. The one that is mentioned must often is the acclaimed orchestral work The Twelve Masks, based on a decoration in his own Vordingborg Church.

Emborg is an interesting figure in Danish music history, because he was so independent. Undaunted by his location in the provinces, he developed a style that was both sure-handed and unusual in the Danish music of his day. His works were increasingly influenced by Baroque music and its principles - something that was a widespread tendency at the time in Germany, but was taken up by few Danish composers. As a contrast, in his style we often find elements of a different musical interest, Danish folk fiddling.

Emborg’s Nocturne from about 1904 bears the opus number 1, and still belongs in the Nordic National-Romantic tradition. The piece has a touch of folk music about it, with its melodiousness and static melancholy, accompanied by rather original piano writing.

Ludolf Nielsen (1876-1939) was from southern Zealand too. He was born in the village of Nørre Tvede near Næstved, but in his teens moved to Copenhagen to seek his fortune. In the capital he developed amazingly quickly, and for some decades engaged in successful, very busy composing activities. He bad artistic success and was paid great attention, but after World War I he retired to some extent. The Romantic world in which he had his roots had suffered a defeat in the War, and this weighed heavily on him. Ludolf Nielsen was at bottom a nature lyricist and Romantic, and wrote refined, questing music. In the face of the explosive events of the War he bad to give up.

Ludolf Nielsen originally wrote Romance op. 11 for cello and orchestra, but he also wrote a version with piano accompaniment. In the orchestral version it was played twice at the Tivoli Concert Hall in the summer of 1906, with the Royal Orchestra musician Siegfried Salomon as soloist. A few years later Ludolf Nielsen was asked by a well known Belgian cellist, Charles van Isterdaël, to write a piece, preferably a sonata (van Isterdaël sent the same request to, among others, Arnold Schoenberg!). Ludolf Nielsen gave Isterdaël the Romance, which the latter then played at his concerts around Europe. But the Romance was never printed, and during World War I the orchestral score disappeared. Ludolf Nielsen had to reconstruct it from his piano manuscript, but neither the orchestra version nor the piano version has been played for generations before the recording of this CD.

At an early stage be called the Romance Legende, a title he also attached to other pieces from this period. It refers to the archaic, mythical element in the music. Ludolf Nielsen deliberately worked to expand the idiom of National Romanticism, and in the Romance he does so with a strong Wagnerian influence. His Romance is time must expansive, and perhaps also the most distinctive piece on this CD.

Jens Cornelius, 1998

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