Matthias Aeschbacher

Leif Kayser: Symphonies, Vol. 1

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Tonal to the point of being modal and traditional to the point of being unoriginal, the two symphonies on this disc by Danish composer Leif Kayser are well-made and heartfelt, but ultimately not altogether persuasive. To say Kayser's Second Symphony (1939) is heavily indebted to the work of the great Danish symphonist Carl Nielsen is to understate the case. There are passages in the opening Moderato cantabile that echo Nielsen's Second, pages in the closing Allegro con brio that echo Nielsen's Fifth, and the climax of the central Molto largo e serioso is the wordless vocalise for soprano and tenor at the climax of Nielsen's Third expanded for wordless mixed choir. But even when Kayser grows beyond the more overt Nielsen influences in his Third Symphony (1943-1953), his own identity does not emerge. The writing is consistently superlative: Kayser's lines are lyrical, his counterpoint is lucid, his scoring is effective. But while the sincerity of Kayser's music is unimpeachable -- listen to the solemn climax of the Third's closing Andante sostenuto -- the intimations of Bartók, Prokofiev, and Hindemith mark Kayser as a highly skilled epigone. Matthias Aeschbacher and the Ålborg Symphony Orchestra with Coro Misto in the Second argue the case with dedication and conviction and Dacapo provides their performances with a clear but slightly dim sound. In the end, though, Kayser's symphonies may be of interest primarily to fans of Danish symphonists who've already delved deep into Nielsen, Holmboe, and Langgaard and are eager for more.

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