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.
The composer Knudåge Riisager (1897-1974) was a violin player himself and composed for the instrument throughout his career. This collection of his violin music demonstrates the composer’s fascinating musical development, featuring early student pieces and youthful works as well as mature compositions with challenging harmonies in charming neo-Baroque forms.
Composer: Knudåge Riisager
Knudåge Riisager’s (1897-1974) international fame is largely due to his extensive work in ballet music, which was primarily a result of collaboration with Harald Lander. The first work he composed for the Royal Danish Theatre was music for the ballet Benzin by Storm P. staged by Elna Ørnberg in 1930.
For more information, please visit en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knud%C3%A5ge_Riisager.
Violin: Johannes Søe Hansen
Johannes Søe Hansen is an award-winning Danish violinist who works both as a performing and recording artist worldwide. As a soloist he has played with all the Danish symphony orchestras, as well as several of the other Nordic orchestras and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic in Russia.
For more information, please visit www.linnrecords.com/artist-johannes-soe-hansen.aspx.
Piano: Christina Bjørkøe
Christina Bjørkøe began playing the piano at the age of 5. She was a pupil of Therese Koppel until 1990, then at the age of 19 was admitted to the Juilliard School of Music in New York as a pupil of Seymour Lipkin. Later she concluded her studies with Anne Øland at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen, where she made her debut in 1997. At the age of 16 she was already performing as a soloist with an orchestra…
For more information, please visit www.dacapo-records.dk/en/artist-christina-bj%C3%B8rk%C3%B8e.aspx.
Vioin: Anne Søe Iwan
Anne Søe Iwan began playing the violin according to the Suzuki method with Tove and Béla Detreköy. Then she studied with Milan Vitek and Marta Libalova, and at the Mozarteum in Salzburg with Ruggerio Ricci. She made her debut in 1991.
For more information, please visit www.naxos.com/person/Anne_Soe_Iwan/2158.htm.
More performers: Inkeri Vanska, Inger OrgAek Lerch Hoj, Christian Ellegaard – violins