Enna: Symphony No. 2 (CD review)
At one time Danish violinist, conductor, and composer August Enna ((1859-1939) was among the most-popular Nordic musicians in the world, but we don't hear much about him anymore. He came to prominence with his Wagnerian-inspired, fairy-tale operas, operettas, choral works, ballets, symphonies, concertos, songs, and orchestral music. Still, time and styles change, and today the world has largely forgotten the man. Fortunately, we get the occasional album such as this one devoted to some of his more-accessible creations.
The disc starts with Fairy Tales: Symphonic Pictures (1905), a four-movement suite of tone poems apparently inspired by the writings of fellow countryman Hans Christian Andersen. However, without much to suggest what stories go with what tunes, it's hard to tell exactly what the music represents. Because Enna divided the Fairy Tales into four sections, it makes the whole work seem something like a traditional symphony, starting with a slowly building Allegro, then a slightly foreboding Andante, followed by what is essentially a third-movement scherzo (Allegro vivace), and concluding with another highly dramatic Allegro. Maestro Michael Hofstetter and the NDR Radio Philharmonic perform it with a restrained gusto that seems appropriate to the mood.
Next in the program we find the Hans Christian Andersen Festival Overture (1905). Like the Fairy Tales, the Overture is mainly atmospheric, a tone piece meant to remind the listener of fairy tales in general rather than any particular ones.
The album ends with Enna's Symphony No. 2 in E major (1908). Truth be told, this doesn't sound a whole lot different to me than the Fairy Tales. It's colorful and brawny, to be sure, but it doesn't exhibit the wealth of melodies or the musical innovation that would have made it popular to our own day. Still, Hofstetter does what he can with it, and there are several delightful moments along the way reminding one at least in part of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel (written a decade earlier).
Although CPO released this disc in 2011, they recorded it in 2004-05. While the sound they obtained is a tad thin and sharp edged, it's fairly clean, clear, and dynamic, too, making it easy to distinguish much inner detailing. There's a pleasant depth to the orchestral stage and acceptable width, with a prominent but not-at-all forwardness to the upper bass/lower midrange. In short, the sonics are more transparent than those in most modern recordings, even though they are not really in the ultimate demonstration class.
William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer
Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.
The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.