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CD Review

August Bournonville

Music to the Bournonville Ballets

  • Herman Severin Løvenskjold: La Sylphide
  • H.S. Paulli/Niels W. Gade/Edvard Helsted/H.C. Lumbye: Napoli (The Fisherman and his Bride)
  • H.C. Lumbye/V. C. Holm: La Ventana
  • H.S. Paulli:
  • Le Conservatoire (Newspaper Courtship)
  • The Kermesse in Bruges (The Three Gifts)
  • Niels W. Gade/J.P.E. Hartmann: Et Folkesagn (A Folk Tale)
  • Edvard Helsted/H.S. Paulli: The Flower Festival in Genzano
  • Joseph Glæser/A.F. Lincke/H.C. Lumbye: Far from Denmark (Costume Ball Aboard Ship)
  • V.C. Holm: The King's Volunteers on Amager
Aalborg Symphony Orchestra/Peter Ernest Lassen
Danacord DACOCD631-639 9CDs 10h DDD
Find it at AmazonFind it at Amazon UKFind it at Amazon GermanyFind it at Amazon CanadaFind it at Amazon FranceFind it at Amazon Japan

Danacord's reputation as one of the foremost labels to trail blaze the many hidden treasures of Danish music surely needs no introduction, but with this milestone of a project, it has definitely cemented its name for posterity. This undertaking has been in preparation since 2000, and the seeds that were sown nearly five years ago have now borne the most wondrous of fruits.

Issued to commemorate the 200th anniversary of August Bourneville's (1805-1879) birth, the set incorporates a sizeable number of ballets that this famous choreographer was responsible for. Many of the works and their composers are mostly obscure or complete novelties, but the music is not only bewitching but worthy, in many instances of a Delibes or Tchaikovsky.

Løvenskjold's delicious 'La Sylphides' is by far the best known and most popular work in this set, but the remainder are all new discoveries waiting to be tasted and enjoyed. 'Napoli' or 'The Fisherman and his Bride' is the combined effort of Paulli, Helsted, Gade and Lumbye. Full of infectious dances, so evocative of that famous city in the South of Italy, it is able to capture one's imagination right from the start and hold it up all through to the boisterous finale.

H.S. Paulli is represented by two other complete ballets, 'Le Conservatoire' or 'A Newspaper Courtship' and 'The Kermesse in Bruges' or 'The Three Gifts', a couple of gems whose brilliance will definitely win over various admirers. 'A Folk Tale' is the remaining full scale work by Gade and J.P.E. Hartmann whose music is very much in that magic mould associated with the world of storytelling.

'La Ventana' by Lumbye and Holm, the Pas de Deux from 'The Flower Festival at Genzano' by Helsted and Paulli, 'Far from Denmark' or 'A Costume Ball aboard Ship' by Glæser, Lunicke and Lumbye, and 'The King's Volunteers on Amager (episode from 1808) by V.C. Holm are all in some way or another small scale works, nevertheless they are bedecked with some glorious melodies that linger in one's ear long after having made their bow.

The Aalborg Symphony Orchestra responds with affectionate warmth to Peter Ernst Lassen's fresh and youthful direction. One's impression is that both the orchestra and conductor have lived with this music all their lives, so complete is their empathy with these magical scores.

All credit to the engineers who have succeeded in creating, not only the perfect acoustics, but also the childlike atmosphere that is so vital when recording such overtly romantic pieces. And what about the Ole Norlyng's annotation, a thoroughly researched essay of inestimable wealth, packed with information apart from the fact that it makes delightful reading as well.

If all this is not enough, Danacord are offering these 9 CDs for the price of 6. I must make this my project of the decade which should win over a legion of admirers and also the top accolades of the industry. Life is beautiful after all!

Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech