Enna: Symphony No. 2 (CD review)

Also, Fairy Tales: Symphonic Pictures; Hans Christian Andersen Overture. Michael Hofstetter, NDR Radio Philharmonic, Hanover. CPO 777-035-2.

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.

JJP

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

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It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa