PAPE: An Amerikaner in Danmark. Suburban Nightmares. Traces of Time Lost.
Carl Boye Hansen, tuba; Morten Bstergaard, bassoon; Odense Symphony Orch/Henrik Vagn Christensen, cond.
DACAPO 6.220567 TT: 57:49
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EICHBERG: Symphony No. 1. Symphony No. 2.
Danish National Symphony Orch/Christoph Poppen, cond.
DACAPO 8.226109 TT: 57:50
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GERNSHEIM: Symphony No. 1 in G minor, Op. 32. Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 54.
Mainz Philharmonic State Orch/Hermann Bäumer, cond.
CPO 777758 TT: 78:00
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WILLIAMS: The Lanes of Limericks. LASH: Stalk. LIEBERMANN: Music for Harp, Op. 116. PAULUS: Berceuse. DELLO JOIO: Bagatelles. CAGE: In a Landscape. CARTER: Bariolage.
Yolanda Kondonassis, harp.
AZICA ACD 71281 TT: 57:46
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Andy Pape, born in Hollywood in 1955, moved to Denmark when 15, studied in Copenhagan and became a part of his new country's musical life. He has received a number of awards, is prominent on the Danish musical scene, and has composed 7 operas, music for theater and film, and a number of symphonic works. Three of these are featured on this new disk. Obviously Pape is a master of orchestration, and his music holds no surprises. An American in Denmark had its premiere in 2003, a 15-minute tribute to Gershwin, a fantasy of the composer's best known works. Suburban Nightmares, a concerto for tuba and orchestra, has three movements: Prelude, The Suburbs, The Nightmare, and Postludium. Traces of Time Lost, composed in 1998, actually is a three-movement bassoon concerto concerned with various aspects of time: The Echoes of Time, The Spiral of Time, and Traces of Time. Nothing earth-shaking or new here, but these are major showpieces for the soloists, brilliantly performed here. Throughout all this music it is obvious that Pape has a sense of humor. The Odense orchestra, conducted by Henrik Vagn Cristensen, plays very well, and audio is state-of-the-art, vividly capturing percussive effects. An entertaining issue, although it seems odd another work or two of Pape's isn't included—there is plenty of unused space.

Another important composer on the Danish musical scene is Soren Nils Eichberg featured on another DaCapo disk. Eichberg, born in Stuttgart in 1973, studied in Denmark and now lives in Germany. He recently was appointed composer-in-residence of the Danish National Radio Symphony, and has received commissions from various organizations and individuals including Hilary Hahn. Here we have Eichberg's first two symphonies. Symphony No. 1, premiered in 2006, has a subtitle, "If we flung ourselves into the flames," suggested by the book The Gospel according to Jesus Christ by Portuguese Nobel Prize-winner José Saramago. The 24-minute symphony is a doomsday violence vision work in four connected movements, with many massive percussive effects. Symphony No. 2, about 10 minutes longer than the first, dates from 2010 and also has four continuous movements. It is subtitled Before Heaven, Before Earth, inspired by a verse from Tao Te Ching by Chinese sage Lao Tzu: Before Heaven, Before Earth, within formless void, and toneless quietude. Aloof, eternally revolving, forever unchanging. Infinite. The symphony begins and ends with ominous rumblings in low strings but, like the first symphony, it is hardly memorable in any way, no matter how well performed. I would have thought the current Danish musical scene would be more innovative. Excellent audio.

Friedrich Gernsheim (1839-1916) is a new name for most collectors.Born in Worms, Germany, he was a prodigy who gave piano performances when only 11 and became a distinguished teacher and conductor. Gersheim composed prolifically, symphonic, chamber, solo and vocal music, but ArkivMusic lists few recordings.The influence of both Schumann and Brahms is evident from the first and thirdof his four symphonies heard here. I haven't heard the Arte Nova recording of all four symphonies with Siegfried Köhler conducting (a budget issue). Now we have this new recording of the first and third symphonies, both large-scale works (44:48 and 43:57) in four movements, each with a lively third movement scherzo. Both symphonies are grand in their own way, and receive dynamic performances by the Mainz Orchestra under Bäumer's concise direction. Excellent audio. This recording is of more interest to me than the two others listed above.

Oklahoma-born Yolanda Kondonassis is one of the leading harpists of our time. She has been principal harp with the orchestras of Cleveland, St. Louis, San Francisco and Atlanta orchestras, and enjoys an extensive solo career as well. She has a number of fine recordings currently available and now this new one called American Harp featuring a wide range of music that demand utmost virtuosity in performance, ending with the two pieces by John Cage and Elliott Carter, that produce sounds you would not expect from a harp. Overall, this is a delightful program, beautifully recorded, with profuse CD notes.

R.E.B. (July 2013)