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Asger Hamerik
1843 - 1923
Denmark
Picture
A. Hamerik
Asger Hamerik -born as: Hammerich- (08/04/1843 - 13/07/1923), a Danish composer, born in Copenhagen, who is largely unknown outside his homeland. His work is now available and it is a rare opportunity to hear four excellent but forgotten works. It causes both joy and sadness. Joy that a composer is rediscovered and presented to the musical public: sadness that such music has lain unheard for so long and is still unlikely to become well known to more than a very few people.
Asger Hamerik did not compose a great number of works; his list extends only to Opus 41. However within this relatively small catalogue there are some eight symphonies, four operas, five Nordic suites and a requiem lasting over three quarters of an hour. The label "Kontrapunkt" produced in 1991 a double CD containing four works from all periods of his life. This affords an overview of a musical career spanning some forty years. And not only is it a fine chronological survey it is also an interesting selection of different forms: the Requiem, an early Piano Quintet, a Concert Romance for ‘Cello and Piano and finally his 6th Symphony – the Symphonie Spirituelle.
Author:John France
Requiem in A major
Period:Romanticism
Composed in:1887
Musical form:mass
Text/libretto:Latin mass
Duration:47'07''
Label(s):Kontrapunkt 32074/75
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This requiem, Op.34, is for choir, soloist and orchestra and is commonly held to be his masterpiece.
Author:John France
The requiem contains:
- Requiem and Kyrie 10:24
- Dies irae 17:08
- Offertorium 6:30
- Sanctus 4:44
- Agnus Dei 8:10
Total duration: 47:07
Source:booklet of cd Kontrapunkt 32074/75
In 1895 the Peabody Institute in Baltimore was due to celebrate the centenary of the birth of its founder. The choice of the governors was Asger Hamerik’s great masterpiece –the Requiem (1887). This fine work was composed whilst the composer was on holiday in the quiet fishing village of Chester on the coast of Nova Scotia. The programme notes point out that Hamerik was not himself a Roman Catholic. However he is known to have had a number of discussions with the incumbent of Chester Village.
This is a masterpiece. In many ways it is the great-unknown setting of the mass. Even if it nods to Berlioz for much of its inspiration it is still a completely original creation. The work has six sections – Requiem and Kyrie combined as Berlioz had done, Dies Irae, Offertorium, Sanctus and Agnus Dei.
The Dies Irae is a war-horse. It is a full seventeen minutes of contrast. Great symphonic music. This shows that the composer was totally at home in all departments of his craft. There is a lovely alto solo in the Offertorio that seems to be quite in advance of its date. There is something almost operatic about this music. I cannot help but be reminded of Elgar's Sea Pictures. The mezzo-soprano Minna Nyhus has a voice to die for. Truly beautiful. The Sanctus is full of lovely brass fanfares – again reminiscent of Berlioz. All sorts of musical devices come into play here – great contrapuntal and fugal writing. The last section of the Requiem is the Agnus Dei. This is quietly restrained. The Symphonic nature of this work and of the Mass in general is reinforced by the references back to the ‘Requiem Eternam’ music at the commencement of this work. This work encompasses a number of styles – from plainsong through to the latest harmonic progressions and effective use of the romantic orchestra. Yet it is a unity – words and music are fused into one. And this is the way that any setting of the mass ought to be.