CFE HORNEMAN: Gurre-Suite; Suite from “Kampen med Muserne”; Overture Héroique; Suite from “Kalanus” – Danish Nat. Sym. Orch,/ Johannes Gustavsson – DaCapo multichannel SACD 6.220564, 66:07 [Distr. by Naxos] ***1/2:
Christian Horneman (1840-1906) was born into a highly artistic family and was friends of both Beethoven and Friedrich Kuhlau. His student years included the befriending of Grieg, who was to have an important influence on him, though he was forced to return home and help support the family after his father fell into bankruptcy.
After a number of failed endeavors in musical activities over a number of years, he finally settled into teaching music reading, something he thought very important, and proved quite successful at it, though the demands of the instruction meant that there was far less time for composition, the field he still thought was his principle activity.
Because of this his output is very small: some songs, a few cantatas, and mostly theater works. His daughter became an actress and his son-in-law a theatrical producer, so the involvement in that area became almost axiomatic, and the theater pieces are his most memorable. This disc, aside from the Heroic Overture, contains four suites from varied plays he set music to, and the first thing I noticed was how complex the pieces are considering that the first rule of setting music to any drama is to not overshadow the play. It doesn’t matter at this point, for the pieces are engaging as standalone work, though none of them have the needed spark that makes for truly memorable music. That Horneman was a talent cannot be denied; that posterity would judge him better if he had been more prolific goes without saying.
As is, none of this can be considered mandatory but it is certainly worthwhile if you happen to be in an exploring mood. The DNSO plays beautifully while exploiting every ounce of DaCapo’s rich surround sound. Your call!
A posthumous release of late career Bill Evans in SACD format adds to the formidable legacy.