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CD 1
Antonín Dvořák
Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 53
[ 1 ] I. Allegro ma non troppo
[ 2 ] II. Adagio ma non troppo
[ 3 ] III. Finale: Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo
Soloist: Jaroslav Suchý
Live broadcast, December 11, 1952

Paul Hindemith
Symphonic Metamorphosis on themes of Weber
[ 4 ] I. Allegro
[ 5 ] II. Scherzo (Turandot): Moderato
[ 6 ] III. Andantino
[ 7 ] IV. Marsch
Live broadcast, December 11, 1952

Peder Gram
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 20 (1919-20)
[ 8 ] I. Allegro moderato
[ 9 ] II. Andante pastorale
[10] III. L´istesso tempo – Allegro con brio
Soloist: Villy Kær
Live broadcast, November 25, 1956

CD 2
Peder Gram
[ 1 ] Overture in C , Op. 21 (1935)
Live broadcast, September 28, 1950

Jean Sibelius
Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47
[ 2 ] I. Allegro moderato (incomplete)
[ 3 ] II. Adagio di molto
[ 4 ] III. Allegro, ma non tanto
Soloist: Max Rostal
Live broadcast, December 7, 1950

Jean Sibelius
Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 39 (incomplete)
[ 5 ] I. Tempo molto moderato, quasi adagio
[ 6 ] III. Scherzo: Allegro
[ 7 ] IV. Allegro
Live broadcast, December 7, 1950

The Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Launy Grøndahl, conductor

The Launy Grøndal Legacy, Vol. 8 © 2024
Given between September 1950 and November 1956, these performances date from the last few years of Launy Grøndahl’s tenure as conductor of the DRSO. While he had been involved with the orchestra ever since its inception in 1925, he had been overshadowed during the 1930s by the more frequent appearances of Nikolai Malko and Fritz Busch in particular, as foreign conductors engaged by the founder of Danish Radio, Emil Holm.
Holm’s retirement in 1937 prompted a management overhaul which saw Peder Gram appointed to the newly created post of Director of Music. This worked in the favour of both Grøndahl and his Danish colleague Erik Tuxen, who found their DRSO concerts became more frequent. Indeed, Grøndahl’s career reached its peak in 1951, shortly after the death of Busch, when he led the DRSO on a UK tour, including a celebrated account of Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony in London. In the latter stages of his career with the DRSO, Grøndahl was no longer confined by the label of a specialist in Danish works. Although he officially retired in 1956, he returned from time to time, until 1959, principally in order to document the Danish music of his time for posterity, and these studio broadcasts were made with a view to later broadcasting. This compilation provides ample evidence that Grøndahl’s expertise was hardly confined to the music of his own country.
The first two works on CD1 are both taken from the live broadcast on December 11, 1952, as part of the orchestra’s regular Thursday series of concerts. Probably inspired by Brahms’s example, Dvořák began work on a Violin Concerto in 1879. As Brahms had done, he wrote the solo part for the violinist Joseph Joachim, and sent him a draft of the piece in 1880. The detail and extent of the changes Joachim suggested are now lost, but he went back on a promise to play the work, and the premiere was instead given, somewhat belatedly, in 1883 by the Czech violinist František Ondříček.
Following Mendelssohn’s example, Dvořák joined the first two movements together, and indeed he chose not to emulate Brahms in setting up an opening symphonic conflict between soloist and orchestra. Rather, the expressive weight of his concerto falls on the slow movement. A suggestion of folk music permeates the finale, presenting themes in a 3/8 furiant rhythm and a slower dumka, but the invention is Dvořák’s own. Joining Grøndahl and the DRSO on this occasion was the violinist Jaroslav Suchý, a long-time member of the Vienna Philharmonic and teacher of future Philharmonic violinists at the Vienna Academy of Music. In fact he had played Dvořák’s Concerto with the VPO in December 1940, under Rudolf Moralt, when he apparently prefaced it (remarkably) with Brahms’s Violin Concerto and followed it with the first movement of Paganini’s Concerto Op.6.
Not for nothing did Hindemith give the title of Symphonic Metamorphosis rather than Variations to the orchestral work he wrote while in wartime exile in the US. A ballet project with Léonide Massine fell through, and Hindemith treated his chosen themes from Weber’s music with an extreme virtuosity of invention, perhaps with the technical polish and finesse of US orchestras in mind (though, ironically, many of their members were European emigres too). Hindemith and his wife liked playing through scores of Weber at home, and he chose lesserknown pieces from incidental music which Weber had supplied for a production of Turandot, in a German version of its original form as a commedia dell’arte entertainment by the Italian dramatist Gozzi.
The metamorphosis is thus a daringly free fusion of styles and eras, from Italian-accented chinoiserie to US-style brass and string writing for updated-German romanticism, cast in four movements and ending with an uproarious march. Grøndahl probably came to know the piece through Busch, who had given the Danish broadcast premiere in 1948 (at a concert for the benefit of the orchestra’s pension fund) and repeated it with the DRSO during the following season. The piece was still less than a decade old when Grøndahl conducted this performance.
Peder Gram studied composition and conducting in Leipzig, returning to the Danish capital in 1908. From 1918 to 1932 he conducted regularly for the Danish Concert Association. Then came Holm’s retirement from Danish Radio in 1937, and the division of his responsibilities into several posts. Foremost among them was the station’s director of music programming, to which Gram was appointed. His composing and conducting activities necessarily suffered as a result, and under its chairman Waldemar Wolsing, the orchestra asserted a greater degree of artistic independence, especially in the area of concert tours.
When Gram left his post in 1951, his fellow heads of department at Danish Radio presented him with a large stack of assorted sheet music collected in a volume with the inscription ’Peder Gram: Symphony No.3’. Perhaps the gesture was meant kindly; at any rate, Gram proceeded to compose a work under that title, completed it in August 1954, and dedicated it to the ’State Radio Symphony Orchestra’. He conducted the first performance on March 13, 1955 – Fritz Busch’s birthday – at a concert in Radiohuset’s Concert Hall. Less than a year later, the 74-year-old Gram died of a heart attack at the tennis courts in K.B. Hallen. Busch paid Gram the double-edged compliment of saying that his symphonies would be world-class if only he could come up with a theme. Perhaps he had a point, to judge from the Violin Concerto composed by Gram in 1919. The lower strings at the outset do not outline a theme so much as define a brooding mood, but when the violin enters, it proceeds likewise to decorate and elaborate with violinistic figuration. A slower second theme presents a more conventionally romantic profile, and the course of the movement is shaped by unpredictable movement between the two ideas, building tension towards a substantial cadenza for the soloist. A solo oboe sets the scene for the following Andante pastorale, and the violin’s theme has a freely rhapsodic quality, intensified by rich ornamentation. Some Sibelian influence is discernible in the harmony and the delicate interplay between soloist and orchestra for a flowing episode at the heart of the movement. A hearty, quintessentially Danish character marks the ebullient finale, where the obvious precedent is Nielsen’s Concerto of 1911.
The legacy of Nielsen is more thoroughly and successfully absorbed by Gram in the motor energy of the Overture in C, from 1935, which opens CD2. Gram brings his own personality to bear on the major-minor harmony and darkly comic orchestral writing which were his natural inheritance as a post-Nielsen composer, but in the parallel writing for winds there is a pervasive Sibelian quality which makes it an excellent curtain-raiser to the rest of the disc. Grøndahl conducted the premiere of the Overture for a studio broadcast in 1936, and reprised it in concert 14 years later.
Later the same season, in December 1950, Grøndahl and the DRSO marked the 85th birthday of Sibelius with a concert dedicated to his music as part of their Thursday series. The Violin Concerto of 1904-5 continued Sibelius’s increasingly bold experiments with form, even within the conventional sonata form-intermezzo-dance finale layout. The soloist on this occasion was the Austrian violinist Max Rostal. He had been a professor at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin until 1933, but as a Jew was forced to emigrate to the UK in 1933 when the Nazis came to power. No other record survives of Rostal in the Sibelius, making this almost-complete performance all the more valuable (but tantalising).
Completed in the spring of 1898, the First Symphony marked the climax to a nationalistic period of expression for the composer, cast in a tragic Tchaikovskian mould and in the same key of E minor as the Russian composer’s Fifth. German notions of symphonic unity may be felt in the framing symmetry of the outer movements: Sibelius had begun work on the symphony while staying Berlin in the spring of 1898, and the harmonic world of the piece emerges from the ‘Sirens’ chord in the Venusberg ballet music of Wagner’s Tannhäuser. Unfortunately the surviving tape of the Symphony is less satisfactory than the Concerto, missing the second movement entirely as well as portions of the outer movements. In its regrettably incomplete state, the performance has nonetheless been felt worthy of inclusion in this series dedicated to the artistry of Grøndahl, who did so much for Nordic composers, and for their international reputation, through the course of his career.
Martin Granau / Peter Quantrill © 2024



EAN: 5709499888001

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