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Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, July 2012

If dictionaries could render their definitions in musical sound, the words Romantic and Romanticism would sing the melodies and harmonies of Horneman. Passion and drama run high, as does emotion that runs the gamut from an almost religious ecstasy and fervor—as in the Struggle with the Muses Suite, which reminds me of some of the religious music of Gounod—to the orgiastic Bacchanal in the same score.

This Dacapo SACD is a real treat for the ears. It’s beautifully recorded, placing the listener in a seat midway back in the orchestra, which allows for enough distance to take in the entire width and depth of the stage, while still allowing individual instruments to be heard distinctly. The Danish National Symphony Orchestra under the able leadership of Johannes Gustavsson proves itself a world-class ensemble. This is very strongly recommended to all who enjoy being carried away by sweeping orchestral scores superbly played and magnificently recorded. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

Barry Brenesal
Fanfare, July 2012

The overture has power and imagination, while the act II prelude mixes fragile warmth and a foretaste of the tragedy that would appear two acts later—in the third excerpt, accompanying Tove’s funeral procession. The final cut, the prelude to act V, mixes bucolic wit, pounding horses’ hooves, and a pensive, halting theme, all of which brilliantly sets the stage for the King’s hunt at Gurre…

The “Dance of the Satyrs” begins surprisingly reflectively, before opening into a mix of furious energy and mockery. The finale, a “Bacchantic Dance,” could give the finale of a well-known ballet sequence from Samson et Dalila a run for its money on vigor and orchestration…

A suite of five selections from Kalanus concludes the disc. Of the five movements…“Introduction and Prayer” has the character of a meditative prelude, followed by a vigorous, martial theme for the brass pitted against an expressively melancholy theme in the strings. “Kalanus” is a searching, introspective piece of delicate instrumental colors, with harmonic ambiguities put once more to simulate an internal crisis.

Schønwandt adds the delightful Aladdin Overture, while Hughes supplies a monodrama from Esther, and the act III ballet music of Aladdin . This means there’s some duplication among the three no matter what combination you try, but certainly Gustavsson is in no way inferior to the others. Recommended. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, July 2012

This Dacapo SACD is a real treat for the ears. It’s beautifully recorded, placing the listener in a seat midway back in the orchestra, which allows for enough distance to take in the entire width and depth of the stage, while still allowing individual instruments to be heard distinctly. The Danish National Symphony Orchestra under the able leadership of Johannes Gustavsson proves itself a world-class ensemble. This is very strongly recommended to all who enjoy being carried away by sweeping orchestral scores superbly played and magnificently recorded. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

Dominy Clements
MusicWeb International, June 2012

This collection of Horneman’s orchestral works is dominated by pieces with a background in mythological and historical dramas. The Ouverture Héroique is one of very few of his pieces not connected with the theatre, and there is apparently no clue to what the title refers. This is a substantial work in a grand romantic idiom, with plenty of drama and striking musical gestures. One can’t help imagining programmatic content of one kind or another, with the music moving through numerous clearly defined sections, now macho and defiant, here and there tender, secretive and after a promise of encroaching adventure, a grand climax with more than a hint of Beethoven and Berlioz in the mix.

This is a marvellously performed and recorded release which is full of rich discovery. Fans of Nordic/Danish music need not hesitate, and should put this disc on their list of purchases; immediate or planned. Young conductor Johannes Gustavsson brings out the best of the very fine Danish National Symphony Orchestra, but one also senses that these musicians are also responding with every ounce of their abilities to the music of their forgotten countryman. It all sounds like great fun to play as well as to hear, and the DaCapo/Danish Broadcasting Corporation SACD engineering is superb. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Steven J. Haller
American Record Guide, May 2012

A much earlier effort of Horneman is the incidental music for Frederik Paludan-Müller’s Kalanus. Hughes and Gustavsson complement each other quite well, and this is music well worth knowing.

Kampen med Muserne (The Contest with the Muses) derives from an over ambitious project of the poet Karl Gjellerup set in ancient Greece. Here again Hughes joins Gustavsson in the remaining suite, starting off with ‘Sunrise’ in the oboe supported by warm strings; a chorus of female voices…sounding downright otherworldly with Hughes…Both Hughes and Gustavsson do remarkably well with this music.

…Gustavsson is impetuous and has his men playing as if possessed…If you know little Danish music…here’s the perfect place to start. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, March 2012

Horneman’s daughter and son-in-law were both involved with the theater, which may explain why the little he did write was mostly stage-related. Accordingly, three of the four selections included here are suites from incidental music he composed for plays, beginning with Holger Drachmann’s (1846-1908) 1899 romantic drama . Based on an ancient Danish legend, four of the ten numbers C.F.E. wrote for it in 1900 comprise the opening suite on this disc.

First we get the overture with arresting story-related, hunting horn calls, and a winsome tune [track-1, beginning at 00:59] with an innocence suggestive of the young Tove (see the album notes). The moving preludes to the second, fourth and fifth acts follow. They are in order melodically melancholy, apprehensively foreboding, and playfully coquettish. This is music of great charm and delicacy depicting subject matter that would also inspire Arnold Schoenberg’s (1874-1951) massive cantata Gurrelieder (1900-11).

As for the next suite, it’s based on music for Karl Gjellerup’s (1857-1919) dramatic poem Kampen med Muserne (Battle with the Muses, 1886-87), which was originally known as Thamyris. Unfortunately the confusion that reigned supreme regarding the genesis and staging of this production also extends to the album notes. So you’re on your own when it comes to figuring out who did what to whom!

Suffice it to say the drama seems to have been in three parts consisting of a prologue with the preceding title, a pastoral play by the name of Myrtis, and another called Marsyas involving. It would seem Horneman’s music was only for the last part, and not completed until 1896.

The suite on this disc contains four selections, beginning with “Solopgang” (“Sunrise”), which opens quietly with what one could imagine as bird calls, the first rays of dawn, and rustling morning breezes. The music builds presumably as the landscape brightens, and then the next number, “Muse-Kor” (“Chorus of the Muses”), for female voices and orchestra follows almost immediately (see the album notes for the text in Danish and English).

This is a lovely dreamy offering that couldn’t be further from the subsequent “Satyrdans” (“Dance of the Satyrs”), which despite a lethargic beginning turns into a cloven-hoofed cavort. The mood becomes even more orgiastic in the concluding “Bakkantisk Dans” (“Bachanntic Dance”), which ends the suite in an intoxicating whirlwind of sound. These two last numbers may bring to mind Gabriel Pierné’s (1863-1937) ballet Cydalise et le chèvre-pied, which would appear some twenty years later (1914-15).

One of the composer’s rare nontheatrical pieces, a concert overture from 1867, is next. Called Ouverture Héroique, or Helteliv (A Hero’s Life), he wrote it during a stay in Munich, and there’s no hint of any underlying program other than the title. Lasting about twelve minutes, it’s in a cleverly modified version of sonata form, making one regret all the more that C.F.E. never composed any larger symphonic works.

The ominous introductory section (OI) with its plaintive winds, sorrowful strings and heartbeat timpani soon gives way to an ecstatic heroic episode (EH) that’s a cross between Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) and Peter IlyichTchaikovsky (1840-1893). These two contrasting thematic groups undergo a skillful development, ending in several concerto-like 6/4 chords [track-9, beginning at 05:45] that announce the recapitulation. At first based on EH, it begins pensively, quickly gathering momentum and transforming into a thrilling coda. However, this soon subsides as the overture ends with sad remembrances of OI.

The disc concludes with a five-part suite drawn from music Horneman wrote in 1890 for a belated production of Frederik Paludan-Müller’s (1809-1876) 1854 tragedy Kalanus. About an encounter between an Indian ascetic of that name and Alexander the Great, the leadoff “Introduktion og Bön” (“Introduction and Prayer”) begins and ends with peacefully meditative passages having a motif that at times recalls the “Dies Irae”… These surround a more animated central episode with colorful repeated brass fanfares.

The succeeding “Festmusik og Kalanus’ Dom (“Festive Music and Sentencing of Kalanus) is initially bright and joyful, but turns suddenly fateful with sweeping string passages. While the “Alexander” section is a proud heroic number with stirring brass and wind embellishments.

The suite ends with “Kalanus i Feberdrömme” (“Kalanus in Feverish Dreams’), and the introduction to the fifth act titled “Kalanus Död” (“Kalanus’ Death”). The former is appropriately halting and restless, while the latter is in a tragic minor key except for one last major chord. This probably signifies the guru’s belief that his death would be the gateway to eternal enlightenment and bliss.

Our performing groups are the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Vocal Ensemble, whose female singers provide the choral support called for in the second suite. Under Sweden’s Johannes Gustavsson (b. 1975), who’s one of today’s leading young conductors, they give exceptionally spirited performance of this music, making a strong case for these symphonic curiosities. Horneman couldn’t have better advocates, who leave what little competition there is in the dust!

Made in one of the world’s finest venues, the Danish National Radio Concert Hall, Copenhagen, the SACD multitrack version is spectacular, and will put you orchestra center in this space-age auditorium. But for some strange reason the CD and SACD stereo tracks project a significantly narrower, more distant sonic image of the orchestra and chorus.

As far as the instrumental timbre and voice quality are concerned, there’s a bit of highend digital twinkle in the CD mode, but the more airy SACD tracks are quite natural sounding. All things considered, what we have here is a case where those with multichannel sound systems will find this a demonstration quality disc, while stereo listeners may have some reservations. © 2012 Classical Lost and Found Read complete review

Jean-Yves Duperron
Classical Music Sentinel, March 2012

One need only listen to the simple melancholic beauty of the second movement of the Gurre Suite, or the up-tempo musical tricks of the Dance of the satyrs from the Contest with the Muses, to start wondering why music of this calibre has been ignored and neglected for so long.

To me [Horneman’s] music seems to bear a stronger resemblance to some of his contemporaries from the east, including Smetana, Glazunov and Tchaikovsky, but with a stamp all his own. He never wrote long and complex symphonic works or concertos, but obviously excelled at the short form. Romantic subjects seemed to ignite a spark of creativity within him, as exemplified by the love story of King Valdemar Atterdag and Tove, in the castle at Gurre… As mentioned above, some of the music to this is very touching and reveals a composer who could capture the essence of an emotion within a five minute time frame. Horneman’s music is not groundbreaking, but it certainly is the work of a craftsman.

This composer’s music was long overlooked for all the wrong reasons, and hopefully this new Dacapo recording will convince other musicians to dig it out of the Danish archives. Conductor Johannes Gustavsson, who has premièred over thirty orchestral works by Nordic composers, is in his comfort zone here with the music of C.F.E. Horneman, and brings out all of its colors and charm. The outstanding Danish National Symphony Orchestra is caught in top form in this SACD mastered studio recording by Dacapo, Denmark’s national record label. © 2012 Classical Music Sentinel Read complete review

David Hurwitz, February 2012

Christian Horneman (1840–1906) wrote comparatively little music…the idiom is late romantic, the melodic invention consistently attractive, the scoring colorful and ear-catching. The music leaves you wanting more.

The other major work here is the suite from Kalanus, in five relatively substantial movements—but arguably the most fun comes from the two dances (of satyrs and a bacchanal, respectively) in “Contest with the Muses”. Trust me, it’s all good, and the performances are absolutely terrific, with Johannes Gustavsson encouraging his players to give their very best…it’s one you won’t want to miss. © 2012 Read complete review

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