Knudåge Riisager: Violin Works / Johannes Søe Hansen, Christina Bjørkøe


A champion of the rich musical heritage of Denmark, the Dacapo label frequently surprises music lovers with unheard-of treasures. This time they do so with the chamber music for violin and piano of Knudåge Riisager. This is an enjoyable and varied hour of music performed by violinist Johannes Søe Hansen, Concertmaster of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, and pianist Christina Bjørkøe.

Knudåge Riisager (1897-1974) was born in Estonia to Danish parents, but lived in Denmark from the time that he was three years old until his death in 1974. After earning a degree in political science at the Copenhagen University he worked as a civil servant for twenty-five years, remaining active as a composer, author and music administrator. Although he is best known for his successful ballet scores, Riisager was a violinist, and the instrument remained central to his output throughout his life. There is a remarkable variety to the music here. I've provided two brief tracks so you can sample the diversity of Riisager's highly individual style: the lyrical and very lovely Aquarelle in E major of 1917 is followed by an example of his playful side, the frisky Palavas of 1951.

The concluding works on the CD are more substantial than the first half dozen. With the likely inspiration coming from similar works by Bartók and Prokofiev, the Sonata for two solo violins, Op. 55b is probably the most challenging from the listener's perspective, but interesting and well worth the effort. The program ends with the charming three movement, Stravinsky-inspired Concertino for five violins and piano. Written in a neo-baroque style, it contains an extraordinary middle movement where all five violins are muted and the piano plays una corda (with the middle soft pedal). It's a beautiful sound.

Knudage Riisager: Palavas for violin and piano (1951)

TRAILER - Riisager: Violin Works - Dacapo Records 6.220594 - interviews and music provided by Dacapo Records