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Ricordanzi d'Italia from Albumsblade

(Henrik Rung)

This is a collection of five Ricordanzi (memories) d’ Italia by the Danish guitarist and composer Henrik Rung (1807 - 1871). The pieces originate from Albumsblade, a collection of fifty miniatures by father and son Henrik and Frederik Rung, which were published in 1898.

Henrik Rung was one of the leading Danish composers from the 19th century. He learnt to play the guitar as a boy form amongst others the legendary Danish guitarist Soffren Degen. A knee injury in his youth caused him to be bed ridden for almost two years, but he spent this time well improving his guitaristic skills.

As a student he performed very well on the Conservatory of the Royal Chapel in Copenhagen. That’s why he was granted a scholarship abroad, he landed in Italy where he studied singing and choir composition. In this period he developed a great love for Italian Renaissance music. After his studies he became Sang Mestre -singing teacher- for the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen and he founded the Cecilia Society Choir (Cæciliaforeningen). In this period he became best known for his songs and choral compositions.

Nevertheless he composed a few guitar works. Four Opus numbers are known, including a small collection of studies. Particularly his Polonaises from these works are technically more demanding, with many virtuoso excursions to the high positions. Besides that he composed a number of contributions for Albumsblade, with Ricordanzi d’Italia as an example. Here he shows his skill in presenting strong melodies and accompaniment, like in his choral works.

The five pieces are all in 6/8 measure. They have the mood of Italian folk songs, I guess Rung heard many of them on his stay in Italy. Ricordanza I resembles a Tarantella, the others are simply songs without words, a clear melody line with accompaniment. The last Ricordanza is a strange one, with modulations which vaguely remind me of Grieg’s Lyriske Stykker. I think this is some of the ’Nordic’ sound which became very clear in the compositions of Rung’s son Frederik.

I arranged this set of pieces for flute/recorder and guitar on the occasion of the birthday of the members of the Dutch ensemble Duo NIHZ.