GRAMOPHONE Magazine Editor's Choice - February 2016. dB Productions celebrate the 150th anniversary of Carl Nielsen with two CD volumes of his music! Featured again on this second volume is one of Sweden’s leading violinists, Cecilia Zilliacus, in Nielsen’s violin concerto. The Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra is conducted by young rising star, Daniel Blendulf.
The ensemble London Winds, praised by BBC Music for its 'technical accomplishment, expressive commitment and warmth of timbre', presents in this recording great twentieth-century works for winds. It features music by Hindemith, Nielsen, and Janáček, and, from the next generation, Barber and Ligeti. Although not equally prolific (Kleine Kammermusik is Hindemith's single contribution to that genre while winds are generally more prominence in Nielsen's music), all these composers brought the wind repertoire back to prominence, after a quiet period of more than a century. The music is full of playfulness and European folk colours.
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.
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
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.