KNUDÅGE RIISAGER (1897-1974): Benzin, Op. 17, Archaeopteryx, Op. 51, To Apollo, God of Light.
Catalogue Number: 06J005
Description: The largest work here is the 43-minute complete ballet score in its first recording, Benzin (petrol to the Brits, gasoline to us), from 1928. This was a collaboration with a prominent humorist who wrote cartoons and stories under the name Storm P. and who designed the sets for the ballet (which are depicted on the cover of the booklet). Intended as a jokey frivolity, it was universally despised by the buttoned-up critics and was perhaps the most spectactular failure the Royal Danish Ballet ever experienced. It became a mark of pride for both Riisager and Storm P. that the stiffs never got the point. Much of the music for the scenario of the farm laborer, the innkeeper's daughter he's in love with and the out-of-gas motorcyclist is in the Futurist manner of illustrative sound-painting, using flutter-tonguing, glissandi, unusual playing techniques, etc. (how about engine noise imitated by solo cymbals for a start?) but the result is often music of marked elegance and the closing scenes of the moon and nightwatchman have an evocative lyricism which is quite atmospheric and memorable. Dating from 1949, Archaeopteryx is a 17-minute tone-poem suggested by a couple of lines from a Danish novelist imagining the huge, ungainly bird-dinosaur "trilling its bone-dry song at the edge of the Cretaceous sea". The long opening on a single C note will make some collectors think of Scelsi and the work remains relatively static, with a few contrasting motifs but no harmonic progression and no energy of any kind - a perfect avant-garde example of a fossil, in fact. To Apollo (1972) is even more avant-garde, a ten-minute work whose planes of searing dissonant sound (depicting the blazing clarity of the god's light) will suggest Riisager's most famous piece - Qarrtsiluni. Danish National Symphony Orchestra/DR; Owain Arwel Hughes. SACD hybrid.