Songs and Duets by Henrik and Frederik Rung
‘Rung & Rung’ proclaims the cover of this Danacord issue, boldly if enigmatically. I confess I had never previously heard of the two Danish composers, Henrik and Frederik Rung, father and son, but this delightful disc certainly establishes their claims as consummate artists, both of them writing songs and duets of great charm.
Needless to say, their writing is largely derivative in style, obviously influenced by Beethoven as well as Schubert, while Frederik is influenced more by Brahms, with an occasional reference to those older composers. The greater number of the items are performed by the stylish tenor Erik Bekker Hansen, with Ellen Refstrup accompanying him, as she does the two other singers , Trine Bastrup Møller (soprano) and Thomas Christian Sigh (baritone). What a delight it is to find all four soloists with such firm and fresh voices and not a hint of a wobble among them.
Henrik Rung (1807 71) offers the 11 items on the first half of the disc, with two duets for tenor and baritone and three for tenor and soprano. In between comes a piano solo, In memoriam, written in 1914 on the death of Frederik Rung by Peter Erasmus Lange-Müller. Most of the songs are simply strophic with variants between stanzas but always lyrical in a warm, often folk-like way. It is to the credit of Erik Hansen that there is no lack of variety in his expression. It helps that full texts and English translations are included. Specially attractive I find are ‘Længsel’ (‘Longing’), with its implied questions and answers, as well as the duet with soprano setting words from Ibsen’s Brand, the baritone in a jolly 6/8 and the soprano more staid in 4/4.
The formula is similar in the second half of the disc involving songs and duets by Frederik Rung (1854-1914), with a sequence of Brahmsian songs in the middle, one of them ‘Sonntagstille’ (‘Sunday Silence’), rather like Brahms’s ‘Lullaby’. I also love the jaunty song ‘Fuglevise’ (‘A Bird Ballad’), rather like something from Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel. Good sound, though with the piano a little forward of the voices, letting one hear the often elaborate keyboard-writing. Altogether a splendid tribute to the Rungs, father and son.