KAYSER: Symphony No. 2 (1939). Symphony No. 3 (1943-53).
Coro Misto, Aalborg Symphony Orchestra/Matthias Aeschbacher.
Da Capo 8.224708 (F) (DDD) TT: 72:39
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Charlie McNielsen. For a composer, the Dane Leif Kayser has led an interesting
life. Hailed as Nielsen's successor, he put music to the side to become
a Roman Catholic priest for many years. He then obtained a release
from his vows in order to marry and returned to music full-time.
I've always wondered about those who want the next Nielsen or the next
Shostakovich or the next Whomever. Often, the original is artistically
unique. Even Brahms isn't the next Beethoven, but the one and only
Brahms. The problem with becoming the Next comes down to the low odds
becoming as good. Indeed, those who produce through imitation something
as good as the model tend to run rare on the ground. Most such composers
remind me of ventriloquists' dummies, rather than of artists with something
of their own to say. On the other hand, Weinberg has written as well
as Shostakovich. Clarke (though not Jacobi) has written as well as
Bloch. I can't think of many more similar successes.
Kayser's Second Symphony, in its harmonic language and in the shape
of its themes, owes a lot to Nielsen's Third, but Kayser really does
something as good. The counterpoint, so good it stuns you, may even
surpass Nielsen's. On the other hand, I find it difficult to shake
my mind. The experience of listening resembles examining a brilliant
forgery. I kept thinking, "This is beautiful, but I've been here
before." Perhaps others won't have this difficulty. Kayser occasionally
uses a wordless chorus, a tasteful "ahh" here and there,
plus reinforcement at the end of the entire work. I find the chorus
As you can tell from the dates above, the Third Symphony took much
longer to write than the Second. It's more dissonant, inhabiting Nielsen's
of, say, the Sixth Symphony or the Clarinet Concerto. The liner notes,
for no good reason, bring Schoenberg's dodecaphony into the discussion,
but the symphony has really so little dissonance, this point should
never have come up. Still, a very nice symphony. If you like Nielsen,
probably like this.
I would call the performances sturdy, rather than stellar. Another
problem of sounding like Nielsen is that I keep comparing this performance
the great Nielsen performances -- Bernstein, Blomstedt, and so on.
How much better this would sound, I say to myself, if only the Berlin
S.G.S. (October 2007)