Johan Peter Emilius Hartmann (1805-1900) was born in Copenhagen and was the son and grandson of composers; his son-in-law was the more famous composer, Niels Gade. He grew up in comfortable circumstances because his mother was governess in the household of the Danish royal family and he was a playmate of the future King Frederik VII. He was a lifelong friend of August Bournonville, the eminent Danish ballet master and choreographer, and consequently he wrote a fair amount of ballet music. On this CD we heard a five-movement choral/orchestral 1872 work 'Voelvens Spaedom' ('The Prophecy of the Seeress'; forgive the lack of Danish diacriticals) which retells the history of the creation of the world to its end in Ragnarok (Götterdämmerung, or Twilight of the Gods). The musical style is a proto-Wagnerian euphony, quite melodious, occasionally quite dramatic, but mostly graceful and lyrical. The choir sings of Odin, the Valkyries, and others from Nordic mythology. A complete text in Danish and English translation is supplied.
The rest of the disc is devoted to incidental music for plays. The seven-minute overture to 'Yrsa' (1881), the fifteen-minute 'Axel og Valborg' (1857) and the nine-minute overture to 'Hakon Jarl' (1844) were all based on Norse historical/mythological subjects as interpreted in dramas by the great Danish writer, Adam Oehlenschläger. The final work is the overture to 'Correggio' (1860), part of the incidental music for an Oehlenschläger drama which concerns itself with the life of a fictional Italian Renaissance painter.
This music is easy to listen to but perhaps a bit lacking in musical substance. That is certainly not the fault of the eminent and skillful Danish conductor, Thomas Dausgaard, and the Danish National Symphony who give the music wonderful performances. These works have never had much life outside Scandinavia and it is good to hear them, but I don't think they have much chance of entering the international orchestral repertoire.