Symphonic Poem: Pan and Syrinx
Thorkild Graae Jørgensen (trombone)
Milton Seibæk (violin)
Carl Bloch (bassoon)
Ingbert Michelsen (horn)
Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra
Recorded 1954-1957 at Danish Broadcasting Corporation Studio 1
Reviewed by: Antony Hodgson
Reviewed: November 2020
CD No: DANACORD DACOCD 882 (2 CDs)
Duration: 2 hours 3 minutes
It is an interesting coincidence that other well-known conductors who were also composers were so closely contemporary with Launy Grøndahl (1886-1960). Furtwängler was also born in 1886 and Klemperer in 1885. All Grøndahl’s concertos respect the classical three-movement outline. They are not strictly in classical concerto form although the works often include cadenza-like passages towards ends of movements.
The Trombone Concerto is a strong, lyrical piece, commencing assertively and ending grandly. It is warmly orchestrated, almost as if Brahms were working a generation later. Thorkild Graae Jørgensen gives a bold, admirably accurate performance and is well balanced against the orchestra. With concertos for this instrument so rare it is surprising that the piece is so neglected.
Composed nearly a decade earlier, the Violin Concerto from 1916 seems a less mature work. Except in the quirky finale the graceful melodies lack the compactness evident in the Trombone Concerto. The sweetness of tone achieved by Milton Seibæk is well suited to the meandering delicacy of the central Nocturne.
Nearly two decades on (1934) Grøndahl was writing in a more harmonically challenging way but apart from the dark Adagio, marked ‘Quasi un fantasia’ and featuring thoughtful solos, the friendly tone of Carl Bloch’s bassoon prevails. An approachable finale sets off as a country walk and ends in cheerful optimism.
The Horn Concerto from 1954 is a good deal more ‘modern’ in concept and serious in intention. Ingbert Michelson is allotted the demanding solo part (occasionally the difficulties show) and is very expressive in realising the differing melodic sections. The movements are more episodic than those of the other concertos, the Tranquillo et Semplice slow movement being the most evocative. The firmest and also the most harmonically daring creation is the final March which includes passages where the horn makes the rhythm subside in moments of uncertainty until the late arrival of a side drum gives a distant military threat.
The two purely orchestral works are relatively early. Pan and Syrinx, a tone poem composed in 1915, is nothing like Carl Nielsen’s lyrical work of the same name. It consists of three minutes of dreaminess at either end and in the middle a soaring but dark string melody is followed by an aggressive full orchestra outburst. The quieter sections feature gentle woodwind – led mostly by clarinet: well I suppose Pan does not have to play the conventional flute.
The Symphony in three continuous movements is from 1919. The first has a very long slow introduction leading to a moderate but more forceful section, the central part is more lively, the Finale more angry. In all, a sequence of ideas rather than a symphonic construction. It ends with four minutes of quiet music. The work is more like a long tone poem than a symphony because the various themes are not developed in a symphonic way.
These recordings are from concert performances but there is no sign of an audience present and the recorded quality is consistently very good. All the concertos merit concert representation today but the Trombone Concerto is the star of the show.