The second installment in Sakari Oramo's superb hybrid SACD cycle of the symphonies of Carl Nielsen on BIS presents the Symphony No. 1 in G minor and the Symphony No. 3, "Sinfonia espansiva," two ruggedly independent works that reflect the composer's late Romantic style yet point to the modernism to come. While the Symphony No. 1 was influenced by Brahms and offers a rich harmonic language, propulsive rhythms, and a fairly homogenous orchestral palette, the Symphony No. 3 is striking for its reliance on unfolding counterpoint and long-breathed lines, and most notable for the use of wordless parts for soprano and baritone voices in the pastoral slow movement. These performances by Oramo and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra are exceptional for their stunning power and spacious feeling, though the crisp details and focused sound quality will be the biggest draw for audiophiles.
Nielsen's Fifth is a superb performance, not only by the glittering and oscillating sound of this prodigious ensample, but the febrile approach given by Kondrashin. This performance was dated in 1981 and we may really realize with admirable clarity the color, phrasing and display of virtuosistic elegance of this majestic Orchestra, in these live recordings.
The Barbirolli Societys latest release is a 2-CD set of the complete concert given in the Free Trade Hall, Manchester on 20 October 1960, with the combined forces of the Hallé and BBC Northern Symphony Orchestras. The concert consisted of Nielsens Symphony No.5 and Mahlers Symphony No.7. Michael Kennedy, writing in 2000, stated: Performances of the (Mahler) Seventh were much rarer then than they are today, and Mahlerian scholars and enthusiasts flocked to Manchester for the event, among them Deryck Cooke who was profoundly impressed by Sir Johns ability to make the works structure cohere. This was an especially significant comment coming from Cooke, who harboured many doubts about the symphony and confessed to finding it most problematical.
Raised in the Danish countryside as the son of a poor folk musician, Carl Nielsen possessed indomitable courage and infinite curiosity: qualities that helped him develop into one of the greatest symphonists of the 20th century and eventually Denmark’s national composer. This box set collects the acclaimed live recording series of Nielsen’s complete symphonies and concertos by the New York Philhamonic, Music Director Alan Gilbert, and soloists Nikolaj Znaider, Robert Langevin, and Anthony McGill.
The great Bohemian-born composer Gustav Mahler once said, "A symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything." Over the course of its nearly 300-year life, the symphony has indeed embraced almost every trend to be found in Western concert music.
In 1962, when Leonard Bernstein chose to record Carl Nielsen’s Fifth Symphony, this provided the composer with a wider international breakthrough some thirty years after his death. The work has since been hailed as one of the greatest symphonies of the twentieth century, but at its first performances during the early 1920’s audiences were less enthusiastic, finding it puzzling and difficult to understand.
"Much more than just an entertaining offshoot of the same team’s deeply-felt Nielsen Symphonies cycle, this disc highlights Nielsen’s wide-ranging sense of curiosity. (…) Järvi’s ineffable sense of atmosphere goes hand in glove with the Gothenburg Symphony Hall recording (outstanding as always) in dreamscapes and sea-pictures, while the extrovert, human worlds of Maskarade and Aladdin are deliciously pointed." ~BBC Music Magazine
Here’s a strange and interesting CD if I’ve ever heard one. It begins with Peter Eötvös’s contemporary piece Levitation, written for two clarinets, accordion, and strings. But don’t break out your polka records for a comparison; this music is more of the style normally described as “contemporary ambient,” with brief shards of musical motifs drifting, interacting, and creating a mood rather than a work with a form that one can grasp. Ironically, I find it much more palatable than some of the contemporary music I’ve reviewed recently, such as Maxwell Davies’s Symphony No. 1 or the piano music of Judith Lang Zaimont. The first section depicts a hurricane scene in which phone boxes and traffic signs float on the violent winds, yet the music is not as violent as the description suggests. Its fragmentary nature, and reliance on a small group of instruments, results in an atonal yet somehow fascinating musical environment.