1. Tragic Overture Op.81
2. Schicksalslied, Op. 54
3. Alto Rhapsody, Op.53
4. Haydn Variations Op.56a
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Serenade for strings in C Op.48
Symphony No. 5 in E minor Op.64
6. Andante cantabile con alcuna licenza
Ludwig van Beethoven
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Op.58
7. Allegro moderato
8. Andante con moto
9. Rondo: Vivace
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
The Nutcracker Suite Op.71a
10. Miniature Overture 3:21
12. 6 Dance Of The Sugar-Plum Fairy
13. Russian Dance (Trepak)
14. Arabian Dance (Coffee)
15. Chinese Dance (Tea)
16. Dance Of The Reed-Pipes (Mirlitons)
17. Waltz Of The Flowers
18. 1812 Overture Op.49
Total playing time: 111 minutes
Born on October 25, 1898 in Copenhagen, Thomas Jensen entered the Royal Danish Conservatoire of Music in 1913 where he studied with, among others, Carl Nielsen. Between 1917 and 1919 he was a solo cellist of the Northwest Skåne Orchestra in Helsingborg in Sweden. From 1920 to 1927 he played in the Tivoli Symphony Orchestra in Copenhagen, ﬁrst as 3rd, then 2nd cellist.
The cellist Jensen nurtured ambitions as a conductor which he began to fulﬁl in 1923, as conductor of the amateur Euphrosyne orchestra. Two years later, his conducting of Stravinsky’s L’histoire du soldat at Det Ny Theater (The New Theatre) attracted attention, and he decided to further his conducting career with periods of study in Paris and Dresden, returning once in a while to conduct at the Nørrebro Theatre, and at the Tivoli in the event of its permanent conductor Frederik Schnedler-Petersen being indisposed.
When Johan Hye-Knudsen left the Scala Theatre in 1925 to join the more prestigious Royal Theatre, Jensen was encouraged to apply for the vacancy. He chose instead to become conductor of the Philharmonic Society in Aarhus. The post enabled him to take on more purely orchestral repertoire, even when coupled with work at the Aarhus Theatre, but he probably also saw the opportunities afforded by the city’s cultural potential. Plans were afoot for a university (founded in 1928) and even a permanent symphony orchestra. This ambition took another decade to bear fruit with the Aarhus Civic Orchestra, founded and named in January 1935 by Jensen himself.
In the meanwhile, Jensen did not restrict his work to the relatively provincial Aarhus. In 1931 he was invited by the head of Danish radio, Emil Holm, to apply for a new post as a second conductor to the radio’s symphony orchestra, assisting the work of Launy Grøndahl and Emil Reesen (and from 1936 Erik Tuxen). Even though several board members suggested hiring him without further ado, the management (mostly Holm) insisted on an open audition. Jensen came third, and the post went instead to the Austrian conductor Fritz Mahler, whose father was a cousin of the composer Gustav Mahler. Jensen’s reputation had preceded him, however, so that he nevertheless returned to the DRSO as a guest conductor.
1935 was a watershed year for Jensen. As well as founding the Aarhus City Orchestra he made his debut with the DRSO in November with a programme of light popular music. The two ensembles continued to lie at the centre of his work for the next two decades. With 26 permanent members, the Aarhus Civic Orchestra was a Classically constituted ensemble, whereas the radio orchestra was more than twice as large, expanding from 55 musicians in the 30s to an ‘international standard of 92 musicians in 1948. From 1936 to 1948 he also led regular concerts with the Tivoli Orchestra, acting as deputy to Svend Christian Felumb during the Aarhus orchestra’s annual summer break.
Jensen’s background as a cellist surely inﬂuenced his repertoire choices as a conductor. He had played in the Danish premieres of Beethoven’s Ninth and Mahler’s Fourth and Ninth symphonies, given by the Tivoli Orchestra with Schnedler-Petersen.
He had also played in the ﬁrst performances of Nielsen’s Fourth and Fifth symphonies, as well as most of the symphonies by Sibelius, under the baton of the composers. From 1937 onwards he gave only symphonic concerts with the DRSO, declining invitations to take on light-music programmes. His debut in the DRSO’s regular Thursday concert series, the most prestigious of their engagements, took place on December 2, 1937 with a programme including the First Cello Concerto of Saint-Saëns and the Symphony by César Franck, and thereafter he gave one or two concerts in the series each season.
Jensen’s connection with the DRSO deepened during the early 50s. The orchestra had come to international attention in concerts led by Fritz Busch at the 1950 Edinburgh Festival and given a critically acclaimed account of Nielsen’s Fourth in London under Launy Grøndahl the following year. In 1952 they embarked on an ambitious tour of the US, giving 39 concerts in 38 cities over 47 days. The punishing schedule did not suit the ageing Grøndahl, and the orchestra’s members petitioned for Jensen to replace him. Sharing duties with Erik Tuxen, Jensen conducted 20 performances of Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony, as well as works by Dvořák, Grieg and Richard Strauss. This led to a part-time post with the orchestra in 1953, and when Grøndahl retired in 1956 and Tuxen died the following year, Jensen was ﬁnally offered the coveted chair of permanent conductor in the autumn of 1957.
The offer came at a propitious time for Jensen. His relations with the management of the Aarhus Civic Orchestra had become frosty over time, and he departed in anger in the spring of 1957. Standing in front of the DRSO musicians for his ﬁrst rehearsal as permanent conductor a few months later, he was welcomed with applause. However, Jensen, now close to 60, was not the conductor he had been a quarter of a century earlier at that unsuccessful audition. He had begun to suffer from progressive deafness, and he quietly remarked to the musicians that his appointment with them might have come a little too late. The orchestra itself was beginning to feel the pressure of success, which demanded both more concerts and a more challenging repertoire, leaving its musicians less time to rehearse and perform the international repertoire that had made them renowned both in Denmark and beyond.
However, until Jensen’s sudden and early death on November 13, 1963, he and the orchestra made a heroic effort to preserve and pass on a fast-vanishing heritage. They were the guardians of a performing culture derived from Nielsen, and from the orchestra’s distinguished early conductors. After 1963, years passed without the DRSO engaging a permanent conductor, and both its playing and esprit de corps suffered accordingly. Thus the recordings in this series represent something of a last gasp of a lost tradition.