Copenhagen, as I’ve probably written before, can be many things but on the whole it is wonderful and I love it. There’s a lot on offer and last week on two separate visits – when it was far too cold for my favourite pastime of watching girls on bicycles – I dipped into different ends of the cultural spectrum.
I take every opportunity I can to spend time with a Danish lady who enchanted me when I first encountered her more than twenty years ago and who continues to fascinate me. I had arranged to see her again last week and, although you couldn’t describe what we have as a relationship, it is most certainly an affaire d’amour, albeit one-sided. My admiration is unrequited while she remains distant and unattainable so, when we are together, I have some mixed feelings to deal with. I wasn’t due to see her until after lunch so Mission Control and I enjoyed a very pleasant couple of hours in Bistro Boheme. This is another Danish café that presents a sort of faux French ambience and, in doing so, isn’t quite one thing or the other. Nonetheless, the food’s good, the atmosphere better and the wine list excellent. Smart and attentive staff in the ubiquitous black outfit served us fried cod’s roe, fois gras and a passable Boeuf Parisienne with a really good Cote de Beaune.
After the pleasant interlude we wrapped-up against the cold and headed up the road, rosy-cheeked from the biting wind or the third glass of wine, I’m not sure which. Although I was on my way to ‘Den Hirschsprungske Samling’ to see Marie again it was actually her husband, Peder, who was the main attraction. Peder Severin Krøyer is the most well-known of the Skagen painters and, in celebration of its centenary, the Hirschspung Collection is holding an exhibition* of his work. The Skagen painters were an eponymous group of Scandinavian artists and writers who lived and worked in the northernmost part of Denmark at the end of the nineteenth century. The landscape and quality of light there is perfectly suited to working in the open and it encouraged the establishment of a small school of painting that drew influence from both the Impressionists and French realists that included Degas and Manet. A lot of Krøyer’s paintings and sketches feature his wife, Marie, and capture a beauty and inner calm that I find both fascinating and irresistible. I never tire of the apparent serenity that flows from the images of her. The Krøyer’s marriage ended badly; he struggled with mental instability brought on by syphilis and died nearly blind at only 58. By that time she had left him to live with and then marry Hugo Alfvén, a Swedish composer. She died in 1940 after living in Tällberg, Sweden – by coincidence, the same place that featured in Barrowboy in winter – and years later cast a spell on me during my first visit to Scandinavia. I’m not the only one that sees something special in Marie Krøyer; a new Danish film – The Passion of Marie – will tell the story of the Krøyers’ relationship when it’s released in November 2012.
‘Roser’ – the exquisite Marie sits in the garden with Rapp the dog. 1893
This is the garden in Skagen depicted in the painting shown above. Krøyer became very interested in photography
and used photographs to fill-in details on his paintings.
‘Hip Hip Hurra’ – Kroyer’s well-known painting of Skagen painters has Marie with her back
to us at the front and the artist fourth from left. 1888
Marie, Rapp and Peder Severin Krøyer
And so from the truly sublime to the, well, other kind of sublime. There’s a lot of music in Copenhagen and an advantage in having family there, especially when a stopover between Sweden and Kastrup airport offers the twin attractions of a late Friday night [an excellent single malt included] and breakfast on Saturday morning. But there’s something else, too; a brother-in-law who has, on the one hand, his own recording studio – fully kitted-out with the latest techno-geekery – and, on the other, a desire to share it with an inclusive and disarming enthusiasm. We’ve enjoyed quite a few soirees over the years and whether it’s picking over vintage R&B, browsing YouTube, recording some not-too-difficult favourites – a pastime not recommended if you think you can carry a tune but don’t like surprises – or simply listening to Lars play guitar or keyboards, it is way up there as an enjoyable means of spending an evening. So, glass in hand and stepping a careful path between guitars, mics, keyboards, speakers, a Hammond B3 and knee-deep song sheets, we immersed ourselves in a surround-sound, twin screen, HD replay of the Earth, Wind and Fire / Chicago concert at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles in 2004. [Here’s a sample] Yes, of course it’s shamefully nostalgia but there isn’t a lot of music produced today that can raise the hairs on your arms in the way that combined brass section does. Sometimes you have to agree that the old stuff was better.
LA Studios – Lars selects another clip that cannot be missed!
It was 3.00am before we were done with those guys and a few others; I remember Chaka Khan and The End of a Love Affair; singing along with Hall and Oates; Boz Scaggs and a cool Swedish guitarist called Andreas Oberg but the rest has faded.
Copenhagen can be many different things.
* The exhibition lasts until 10 April 2012 and the 140 works feature many important paintings and sketches that have been loaned from other collections, including some private ones. It represents a major collection of work across a lifetime spent travelling in Europe as well as living and working in Skagen. The exhibition will be in Skagen after Copenhagen, from 4 May to 2 September 2012.