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Go Danish Folk GO0815

In 1815, on the southern Danish island of Falster, while Napoleon's career was ending across the North Sea in Belgium, one of Denmark's foremost composers and arrangers of traditional music was born. Borcher Madsen reputedly wrote tunes at the drop of a hat, and the 19th century manuscripts of Falster and Lolland are littered with his compositions. Fiddler Kristian Bugge, accordeoniste Mette Kathrine Jensen and guitar guru Morten Alfred Høirup have researched and recreated some of Madsen's music here to celebrate his 200th birthday. Borcher is no longer with us, of course, but his compositions are still at the heart of Danish traditional music, and in some ways this CD encapsulates 200 years of Danish dance music.

The CD notes don't give much information about the tunes, which is not surprising as they were often noted down by Madsen on the spot for his visitors. An unusual aspect at the time was his use of minor keys and modes, a trait which has developed in Danish music more recently, possibly through contact with other traditions. Slid Din Tid contains polkas, waltzes, hopsas and other dances with this minor cadence, which was at least partly conscious as one tune is titled Hopsa Med Mol (Hopsa with Minor). There are some great melodies here, in a style which spans the Low Countries (including East Anglia) as well as Denmark. The four-part Hamborger could easily be an English dance tune and one or two of Madsen's polkas have already made the crossing to England, officially or otherwise - but sadly not the wonderfully languorous Fanny Polka. That Madsen minor modal mood is very obvious in Grevindens Menuet, a beautifully chilling piece which evokes ghostly hands and hidden terrors in a Brothers Grimm fairytale. Try it yourself, perhaps when you're not home alone.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 111 of The Living Tradition magazine.