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.
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.
Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) is Denmark's most famous composer. He studied with Niels Wilhelm Gade at Copenhagen Conservatory and went on study trips to Germany, Austria, Italy and France. Nielsen was court music director in Copenhagen and taught at the Royal Danish Conservatory. His works display strong counterpoint and polytonality as well as traditional melody shapes.
In her third release for EMI Classics the energetic young Norwegian violinist continues the idea of Nordic and Russian concerto pairings established with Sibelius and Prokofiev Concertos on her first album. Here the famous romance of Tchaikovsky’s well-loved violin concerto and Scandinavian poise and unique colouring of Nielsen’s concerto are presented in a rare coupling together on disc.
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.
This sensational disc has served as a reference edition for both concertos since it was first issued back in the late 1980s. The Sibelius concerto is distinguished by the tension between Lin’s passionate and virtuosic account of the solo part and Salonen’s remarkable precision at the head of the orchestra. Listen, for example, to the remarkable rhythmic clarity at the opening of the finale, and to the way this serves to “float” Lin’s daredevil pyrotechnics up above. It’s just marvellous. The same holds true of the Nielsen–there is no finer account of this neglected concerto. It’s a rarity because in the finale Nielsen subordinates flash and dazzle to the work’s overall emotional arc, progressing from anger to contentment. That doesn’t mean the music isn’t excellent, or that Lin and Salonen’s performances aren’t gripping from first note to last. They tear into the opening movement with apt ferocity and find the necessary emotional resolution in the work’s amiable conclusion. The detailed, well-balanced sound ideally suits the interpretations. Essential.