The Golden Age of Danish Partsongs / Ars Nova Copenhagen; Paul Hillier


This splendid album, The Golden Age of Danish Partsongs, should be an obvious acquisition for any listener who enjoys Romantic choral music. It's been released by the Danish Dacapo label and is performed by Ars Nova Copenhagen under the direction of eminent choral conductor, Paul Hillier. Made up of folksongs for a cappella mixed chorus, these beautiful settings come from nine composers, and span a period from the early 19th-century through the late 20th-century. The music is most enjoyable, and the choir sounds wonderful.

The earliest setting, by Friedrich Kuhlau (1786-1832), dates from 1825 and the latest, written in 1994, is by Ib Nørholm (b.1931). Most of the twenty-three selections were written during the Romantic and Post-Romantic eras, with texts based largely on matters of love, nature and God - typical fare for folksongs from most any region of the world. Uncomplicated settings of simple beauty are heard alongside others with marvelously intricate harmonies and delicately feathered counterpoint ; all of it is sung with astonishing precision and musicality by Ars Nova Copenhagen.

The program opens with a generous seven minutes of music by Carl Nielsen (1865-1931). All simplicity and grace, sublimely sung, you can hear the opening song, Oh Jesu mine, may my heart learn as one of the two album samples available in the right sidebar. The second sample, In autumn, is an absolute charmer by Niels W. Gade (1817-1890). Other settings are by J.P.E. Hartmann (1805-1900), Thomas Laub (1852-1927), Peter Heise (1830-1879) and Svend S. Schultz (1913-1998). Not all of the music is by Danish composers; there are settings by Friedrich Kuhlau and C.E.F. Weyse, both Germans who worked extensively in Denmark.

Dacapo provides superb sonics for this 32-bit Super Audio CD, recorded in 2012. In the album notes, Paul Hillier asserts, this 'Golden Age' is still upon us and that there is plenty more Danish Choral music to be heard. Hopefully, this will turn out to be the first of several volumes Mr. Hillier and Ars Nova Copenhagen records. Don't pass this one up!