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For music lovers outside Denmark, the name of John Frandsen might not raise any eyebrows, but in his native country he is revered as one of the major pillars of Danish musical life in the twentieth century. Frandsen was born in Copenhagen on 10 July 1918. He grew up with his mother after his father left for the USA and never came back. He was not particularly interested in music, but his mother was a singer and the boy quickly developed a love for this most wonderful of arts. He was educated at the Royal Danish Conservatory of Music in the capital, and later acquired the post of organist at the Domkirke in 1938. He remained there until 1953, during which time he also made appearances as a conductor.
Between 1945-46 he was in charge of the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and later at the Royal Danish Theatre. He also made appearances with the Royal Danish Orchestra in Copenhagen. 3 October 1947 was a red-letter day for Frandsen. It was on this date that he conducted the Danish premiere of Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes at the Royal Theatre. Indeed, the performance was such a triumph that Frandsen kept conducting at that venue until his resignation in 1980, retiring as a principal conductor. He specialized in Mozart, Verdi, Wagner and Richard Strauss, but he also devoted much of his energies to Scandinavian composers, particularly those coming from Denmark.
Listen — Knudåge Riisager: Torgutisk Dans
(DACOCD 940 CD2 track 10, 0:00-0:56) ℗ 2022 Danacord :
He was essentially a romantic but he never refused to conduct modern works. In 1958 he toured America with the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra to great acclaim, and during this period his ability as a teacher came much to the fore.
Frandsen started his recording career on 3 November 1947 and by the time of his demise in 1996 he had amassed a substantial number of recordings. Particularly of note are his outstanding performances of Danish music.
Listen — Niels Wilhelm Gade: Echoes of Ossian Concert Overture
(DACOCD 940 CD2 track 6, 6:27-7:25) ℗ 2022 Danacord :
This newly remastered compilation brings together 1950s recordings made for Columbia, Odeon and Philips. The items chosen could not be more varied yet balanced. Famous pieces such as Brahms' 4th Symphony and Schubert's 5th contrast sharply with Høffding's Symphonic Fantasy No 1, Gade's Overture Echoes of Ossian, Hartmann's Hakon Jarl Overture, Riisager's Torgot Dance and Tarp's The Battle of Jericho Overture, Op 51 and Overture for my marionette-theatre.
Listen — Svend Erik Tarp: Overture for my marionette-theatre
(DACOCD 940 CD2 track 8, 0:00-0:44) ℗ 2022 Danacord :
The programme also includes two of the most popular works among concertgoers: Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro Overture and Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor, Op 16.
Listen — Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro overture
(DACOCD 940 CD1 track 1, 1:48-2:43) ℗ 2022 Danacord :
Frandsen's conducting has a pleasing flow that creates an aura of peace and serenity, and his flexible tempi and broad phrasing give the music that extra sparkle which is the difference between a good or great performance. This is an astutely selected programme, worthy of serious investigation, where the nineteenth and twentieth centuries joined hands in a fitting tribute to one of Denmark's great twentieth century conductors.
Copyright © 10 November 2022