Originally recorded at an unspecified time for Denmark's small Classico label, this album was later reissued by the German discounter TIM, with minimal presentation (albeit an attractive package partly shared with other releases in the "Scandinavian Classics" series) and no texts in the booklet even though a few pieces are in the hardly widely understood Danish language (most are in German). It's not a masterful performance; the Copenhagen University Choir is about on a par with good collegiate singing organizations in other countries, which is to say reasonably clear and unfailingly enthusiastic, but not silky smooth. The program is heavy on a cappella music for male choir and then irregularly breaks it up with pieces accompanied by piano or a larger group, or with solo singing. The shift to the English-language part songs of Elgar at the end, which aren't of a piece with the rest of the music, is somehow unsatisfying. Yet the upside outweighs these considerations: music for male choir, an integral part of the musical experience of so many musicians in the 19th century, is largely forgotten, and any competent revival, a category for which this recording certainly qualifies, is welcome. The program opens with two sets of short male choir pieces by Danish composer Niels Gade that are certainly sentimental in idiom, but expertly handled. In the middle are part songs from Mendelssohn, probably stronger than his solo songs, and a variety of little-known Schubert works. Even less familiar than Gade, at least outside of Denmark, is Wilhelm Peterson-Berger (1867-1942), but the three chromatic pieces heard here could work on a program with Bruckner's unaccompanied choral music. The Elgar pieces, although not so designated, are the Five Partsongs from the Greek Anthology, of 1902, though short, are expressively ambitious in a way that the other music on the album is not, with subtle development replacing foursquare tunes and harmony; they are performed sometimes by British choirs but couldn't be called familiar. The bottom line: there's a lot of music here that's worth getting to know for singer and admirers of choral art.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Reiterleben, Op. 16|
|Five Songs For Male Voice Choir, Op. 38|