John Frandsen (b. 1956) clearly is a talented composer with an enjoyable personal idiom. The orchestral music here is strongly gestural (the recurring use of chimes in the first movement of the symphony, for example), but with an equal fund of long, lyrical lines that often sound quite ravishing. His love of Romantic melody combined with a thoroughly contemporary view of structure and sonority makes for very satisfying listening, on the whole. The First Symphony is particularly successful both as a whole and in its parts, and the string-and-harp-based central Adagio makes an especially strong impression. It’s also beautifully played by the Odense Symphony Orchestra under Christian Eggen.
At the Yellow Emperor’s Time, an aria for soprano and orchestra taken from the opera I-K-O-N (2003), is also marvelous–hauntingly folk-like and timeless. Djina Mai-Mai sings it sweetly in English, though the words aren’t easy to make out and the text is not included with the slim-line packaging. The Amalie Suite, 10 brief minutes for chamber ensemble, offers the same textural mix as the symphony, while the Cello Concerto “Hymn to the Ice Queen” shows Frandsen’s willingness to let the instrument sing and also displays his inventive ear for orchestral sonority (though the overall impression remains a touch static). Svend Winslov plays neatly, but with a small tone that has a difficult time standing out against the often kaleidoscopic scoring. Still, if good contemporary music interests you, Frandsen certainly is someone worth getting to know. The excellent engineering is up to Dacapo’s usual high standards.