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Carl Nielsen: The Danish Symphonist

Nielsen / Hess-thaysen / Lund / Cox / Price
Release Date: 01/31/2012 
Label:  Membran / Scandinavian Classics   Catalog #: 233378   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Carl NielsenLudolf Nielsen
Performer:  Rune MostMalcolm StewartJohannes Soe HansenFrank Jarlsfelt,   ... 
Conductor:  Douglas Bostock
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scandinavian Chamber Players
Number of Discs: 10 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 10 Hours 32 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



NIELSEN Symphonies: Nos. 1–6 1. Aladdin: Suite 1. Symphonic Rhapsody 1. Helios Overture 1. Cupid and the Poet: Suite 1. Paraphrase on “Nearer My God, to Thee. 1 ” Flute Concerto 2,3. Read more class="ARIAL12bi">Pan and Syrinx 2,3. Suite for String Orchestra 2. At the Bier of a Young Artist. 2 Bohemian-Danish Folk Songs 2. Andante tranquillo e scherzo. 1 Violin Concerto. 1,4 Romance. 1,4 Violin Sonata No. 1. 5 Clarinet Concerto. 2,6 Wind Quintet 7. Serenata in Vano 7. 5 Piano Pieces. 8 Symphonic Suite. 8 Humoresque Bagatelles. 8 Festive Prelude. 8 Drømmen on “Glade Jul. 8 ” Chaconne. 8 Theme with Variations. 8 Suite, op. 45 8. 3 Piano Pieces. 8 Piano Music for Children & Adults. 8 Songs 9 Douglas Bostock, cond; 1 Royal Liverpool PO; 2 Czech CPO; 3 Rune Most (fl); 4 Malcolm Stewart (vn); 5 Johannes Søe Hansen (vn); 5 Frank Jarlsfelt (pn); 6 John Kruse (cl); 7 Scandinavian C Players; 8 Anne Øland (pn); 9 Ulrik Cold (bs); 9 Johannes Mikkelsen (pn) MEMBRAN 233378/A-J (10 CDs: 633:19)


Carl Nielsen was undoubtedly one of the 20th century’s greatest symphonists (in my view, the last truly great symphonist, the accomplishments of Havergal Brian notwithstanding), but he also wrote a great deal of other excellent music: piano solo works, tone poems, cantatas, concertos, songs, and the opera Maskerade. Unfortunately he had few champions to bring his music to the world outside Denmark, as Klemperer, Fried, and Walter did for Mahler, so it wasn’t until roughly 20 years after his death—thanks to the first recordings of his symphonies by conductor Erik Tuxen—that he finally began to be acknowledged for his achievements. This massive set is in fact titled The Danish Symphonist, which is a bit misleading since only the first three discs of the 10 include the symphonies. The rest are filled with his other instrumental music, including Serenata in Vano and the wind quintet, two discs of solo piano music, and one disc of songs.


All of these are reissues of other albums spread over a 20-year period. The songs, performed by bass Ulrik Cold, were recorded in 1980–82 and issued on a two-CD set (now out of print), so we only have half of them here. The two CDs of solo piano works by Anne Øland, recorded in 1992–93, were issued at least twice, the last time on Scandinavian Classics 220540-304 in 2002. I couldn’t find any reviews of the Cold recordings, but Øland seems to have gotten good reviews.


The more massive selection of orchestral music was recorded by Douglas Bostock, a conductor little known outside Great Britain, for the Classico label between 1999 and 2003. When the symphonies were originally issued in England, they received excellent reviews from a BBC Music Magazine critic, who thought that Bostock really got inside the music, and negative reaction from Classics Today critic Victor Carr Jr., who compared him negatively to Michael Schønwandt, who recorded the symphonies around the same time for Dacapo (now available on Naxos), and Jean Martinon. But I have Schønwandt’s recordings of symphonies 1–3 and 6, and making direct A-B comparisons of various movements from the second and third symphonies reveal absolutely no difference in tempo, interpretation, or even orchestral balance. What I do hear is the more reverberant sound on the Schønwandt recordings, which seems to be inherent on almost all Naxos orchestral releases, while the Bostock recordings have the kind of acoustic I greatly prefer, which is to say with a little hall ambience but with the instrumental choirs much clearer and more forward. Yet Carr complained of the sound on the Classico release, saying that it turned Nielsen’s scoring “inside-out, with the critically important string and woodwind exchanges drowned out by the over-prominent horns.” This was his description of Bostock’s version of the “Inextinguishable,” but here I have not Schønwandt’s recording but Adrian Leaper’s, which is also on Naxos (8550743), and to be honest, Bostock is far more exciting and has much greater clarity of orchestral detail than Leaper (one example, the soft yet detailed wind passage at the two-minute mark in the second movement of the Fourth Symphony). Thus, we all have our own way of hearing things, but I for one absolutely love Bostock’s recordings.


It might also be mentioned that Bostock used the then-latest performance edition, with corrections and small alterations in the orchestral parts made by Nielsen after publication. Robert Layton, in BBC Music, states that these are clearly discernible, particularly in the Fifth where “they are most evident,” but notes that Schønwandt also uses the corrected scores, so again, an A-B comparison reveals little difference. Bostock does, however, include an alternate version of the Third Symphony’s second movement, where the wordless vocals of a soprano and tenor (sung gorgeously by Eva Hess-Thaysen and Jan Lund) were replaced by a clarinet and trombone. Of course, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic is not a challenge tonally for such super-orchestras as the Boston or Chicago symphonies, but that doesn’t matter much when one gets wrapped up in the tremendous feeling Bostock is able to elicit from his musicians. The same is also true for the very fine Czech Chamber Philharmonic, which Bostock leads in such works as the Flute Concerto, Pan and Syrinx, At the Bier of a Young Artist, Suite for String Orchestra, and Bohemian-Danish Folk Songs for Strings. Bostock was an occasional guest of the Royal Liverpool Orchestra, but principal guest conductor of the Czech Chamber Philharmonic at the time of recording. (He still holds the latter post, but now is also the music director of the Aargau Symphony Orchestra in Switzerland.)


The Violin Concerto, which over time has moved into the pantheon of great works for that instrument, is superbly played by Malcolm Stewart, a name hitherto unknown to me, who draws an outstanding tone from a 1905 Stefano Scarampella violin. This is one of the major highlights of this collection. Stewart also does a fine job with the Romance for violin and, surprise of surprises, another violinist, Johannes Søe Hansen, is even more passionate in his recording of the Violin Sonata No. 1. Of lesser-known music, I am greatly impressed by the Aladdin Suite, a piece that sounds closer to Mediterranean music and far less treacly than Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherezade. (I could, in fact, well imagine it as a superb score for Lotte Reiniger’s classic cut-out silhouette film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed. ) I also love the Helios overture, which moves from a stately theme with double-time string figures in the background to a superb uptempo fugue before receding into a quiet ending. And of course, the flute and clarinet concertos are late-period works almost as highly prized by musicians as the symphonies (they were written for friends who had participated in the Wind Quintet). Bostock draws warm and engaging performances of both works from his musicians and, again, includes the original version of the Flute Concerto’s second movement, shorter and somewhat different from the published version.


And I’ll tell you something else: The performances here of the Wind Quintet and Serenata in Vano are far livelier, and with crisper, more realistic sonics, than those by the Athena Ensemble on Chandos, a 1979 recording reissued in 2008 that I gave a high recommendation (and kept in my collection until now). As for the piano pieces, they fit the description “charming” rather than compositionally complex or technically demanding. Happily, Anne Øland draws a great deal of charm and humor out of them, leaning into the quirky rhythmic figures in such a way that she pulls the listener along with her (listen, for instance, to the second of his Five Piano Pieces that begin CD 8, or “The Jumping Jack” in the Humoresque Bagatelles ). The only pieces that really don’t impress me are Piano Music for Children and Adults, but I get the impression that here Nielsen was purposely writing down for kids.


One thing I haven’t mentioned so far, but must do so here, is the sole deficiency I find with this set. It includes no liner notes or translations of the songs, and this certainly does affect our appreciation of CD 10, which is the first disc of Ulrik Cold’s collection of Nielsen Lieder. (Is it still officially “Lieder” when the composer is Danish?) The songs here include You Danish Man, Look Out One Summer Day, As the Deepest Well Gives the Clearest Water, In the Lowlands, Now Gleams the Foliage in the Grove, Denmark for a Thousand Years, Out of the Mist Emerges, and Freedom is the Best Gold, as well as songs set to five poems by J. P. Jacobsen and the six Holstein Lieder. However, you can always copy descriptions of the symphonies and other works either online or from other CD booklets, and there are some websites available that can give you translations of many of these songs. Anyone who knows Nielsen’s songs, particularly via the classic Aksel Schiøtz recordings, realizes that none of them are heavy or serious like the songs of Schubert, Brahms, or Wolf, but rather light, short pieces, usually in strophic form, with repeated, almost folk-like melodies. As to the performances, Cold has an unusually high, light bass voice, sounding much more like a baritone with some low notes, and his performances are wonderful. I suppose that Membran inserts this disc for no other reason than that the label’s trademark is the “10-CD set,” and without this disc it would only be nine, but since Cold did record two CDs’ worth of songs and this disc is only 47:16 long, I think Membran should have given us at least another half hours’ worth of songs from the second CD.


That being said, this set is selling for $48.99 at ArkivMusic, which breaks down to $4.89 per disc, a real bargain. The box containing the CDs does open kind of funky—from the bottom up, not from the right side to the left. Since all four sides of the box have the same text, however, set in the same direction, you can (if you choose) put the box sideways on your shelf so that it will open from the right side when you pull it out. Aside from that packaging glitch, however, which is a minor thing, I do not merely recommend this set. I urge you to buy it, especially if you are any kind of a Nielsen fan. There is not a dull or uninteresting work, or performance, in the entire 10 CDs.


FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 1 in G minor, Op. 7 by Carl Nielsen
Conductor:  Douglas Bostock
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1890-1892; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 01/2001 
Venue:  Liverpool 
Length: 31 Minutes 4 Secs. 
2.
Symphony no 2 in B minor, Op. 16 "The Four Temperaments" by Carl Nielsen
Conductor:  Douglas Bostock
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1901-1902; Denmark 
Venue:  Liverpool 
Length: 31 Minutes 28 Secs. 
3.
Symphony no 3, Op. 27 "Sinfonia espansiva" by Carl Nielsen
Conductor:  Douglas Bostock
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1910-1911; Denmark 
Venue:  Liverpool 
Length: 44 Minutes 19 Secs. 
4.
Symphony no 4, Op. 29 "Inextinguishable" by Carl Nielsen
Conductor:  Douglas Bostock
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914-1916; Denmark 
Venue:  Liverpool 
Length: 34 Minutes 11 Secs. 
5.
Symphony no 5, Op. 50 by Carl Nielsen
Conductor:  Douglas Bostock
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1921-1922; Denmark 
Venue:  Liverpool 
Length: 24 Minutes 23 Secs. 
6.
Symphony no 6, FS 116 "Sinfonia semplice" by Carl Nielsen
Conductor:  Douglas Bostock
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1924-1925; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 01/2001 
Venue:  Liverpool 
Length: 32 Minutes 13 Secs. 
7.
Aladdin, Op. 34 by Carl Nielsen
Conductor:  Douglas Bostock
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1918-1919; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 2003 
Venue:  Liverpool 
Length: 25 Minutes 28 Secs. 
8.
Symphonic Rhapsody in F major, FS 7 by Carl Nielsen
Conductor:  Douglas Bostock
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1888; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 08/2000 
Venue:  Liverpool 
Length: 8 Minutes 32 Secs. 
9.
Helios Overture, FS 32/Op. 17 by Carl Nielsen
Conductor:  Douglas Bostock
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903; Denmark 
Venue:  Liverpool 
Length: 12 Minutes 7 Secs. 
10.
Amor og Digteren, FS 150/Op. 54 by Carl Nielsen
Conductor:  Douglas Bostock
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1930; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 08/2000 
Venue:  Liverpool 
Length: 5 Minutes 18 Secs. 
11.
Paraphrase on "Nearer my God to Thee," FS 63 by Carl Nielsen
Conductor:  Douglas Bostock
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912; Denmark 
Venue:  Liverpool 
Length: 5 Minutes 38 Secs. 
12.
Concerto for Flute, FS 119 by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Rune Most (Flute)
Conductor:  Douglas Bostock
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 08/2005 
Venue:  Pardubice (Czech Republic) 
Length: 17 Minutes 47 Secs. 
13.
Pan and Syrinx, Op. 49 by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Rune Most (Flute)
Conductor:  Douglas Bostock
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1917-1918; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 08/2005 
Venue:  Pardubice (Czech Republic) 
Length: 7 Minutes 36 Secs. 
14.
Little Suite for Strings in A minor, FS 6/Op. 1 by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Rune Most (Flute)
Conductor:  Douglas Bostock
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1888/1889; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 08/2005 
Venue:  Pardubice (Czech Republic) 
Length: 15 Minutes 51 Secs. 
15.
At the bier of a young artist, FS 58 by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Rune Most (Flute)
Conductor:  Douglas Bostock
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1910; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 08/2005 
Venue:  Pardubice (Czech Republic) 
Length: 4 Minutes 35 Secs. 
16.
Bohmisk-dansk folketone, FS 130 by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Rune Most (Flute)
Conductor:  Douglas Bostock
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 08/2005 
Venue:  Pardubice (Czech Republic) 
Length: 7 Minutes 1 Secs. 
17.
Andante tranquillo by Carl Nielsen
Conductor:  Douglas Bostock
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Denmark 
Date of Recording: 01/2001 
Venue:  Liverpool 
Length: 6 Minutes 21 Secs. 
18.
Concerto for Violin, Op. 33 by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Malcolm Stewart (Violin)
Conductor:  Douglas Bostock
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 2003 
Venue:  Liverpool 
Length: 22 Minutes 18 Secs. 
19.
Fantasy Pieces (2) for Oboe and Piano, FS 8/Op. 2: no 1, Romance by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Malcolm Stewart (Violin)
Conductor:  Douglas Bostock
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1889; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 2003 
Venue:  Liverpool 
Length: 3 Minutes 36 Secs. 
20.
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 1 in A major, FS 20/Op. 9 by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Johannes Soe Hansen (Violin), Frank Jarlsfelt (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1895; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 1994 
Venue:  Copenhagen 
Length: 20 Minutes 47 Secs. 
21.
Concerto for Clarinet, FS 129/Op. 57 by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  John Kruse (Clarinet)
Conductor:  Douglas Bostock
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; Denmark 
Venue:  Pardubice (Czech Republic) 
Length: 24 Minutes 27 Secs. 
22.
Quintet for Winds, Op. 43 by Carl Nielsen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scandinavian Chamber Players
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1922; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 11/1996 
Length: 15 Minutes 8 Secs. 
23.
Serenata in vano for Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, Cello and Double Bass, FS 68 by Carl Nielsen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scandinavian Chamber Players
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 11/1996 
Length: 8 Minutes 17 Secs. 
24.
Pieces (5) for Piano, FS 10/Op. 3 by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Anne Oland (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1890; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 1992-93 
Length: 7 Minutes 1 Secs. 
25.
Symphonic Suite for Piano, FS 19/Op. 8 by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Anne Oland (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1894; Denmark 
26.
Humoresque-Bagatelles (6), FS 22/Op. 11 by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Anne Oland (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1894-1897; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 1992-93 
Length: 5 Minutes 35 Secs. 
27.
Festival Prelude for Piano, FS 24 "Ved Aarhundredskiftet" by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Anne Oland (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1900; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 1992-93 
Length: 1 Minutes 55 Secs. 
28.
Dream of a Merry Christmas for Piano, FS 34 by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Anne Oland (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1905; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 1992-93 
Length: 2 Minutes 18 Secs. 
29.
Chaconne for Piano, FS 79/Op. 32 by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Anne Oland (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1916; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 1992-93 
Length: 10 Minutes 26 Secs. 
30.
Theme and Variations for Piano, FS 81/Op. 40 by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Anne Oland (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1917; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 1992-93 
Length: 17 Minutes 3 Secs. 
31.
Suite for Piano, FS 91/Op. 45 "Luciferian" by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Anne Oland (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1919-1920; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 1992-93 
Length: 22 Minutes 15 Secs. 
32.
Pieces (3) for Piano, FS 131/Op. 59 by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Anne Oland (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 1992-93 
Length: 11 Minutes 35 Secs. 
33.
Piano music for young and old, FS 148/Op. 53 by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Anne Oland (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1930; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 1992-93 
Length: 21 Minutes 3 Secs. 
34.
Du danske mand, FS 35 by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Ulrik Cold (), Johannes Mikkelsen (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1906; Denmark 
Venue:  Hannover 
Length: 2 Minutes 1 Secs. 
35.
Melodies for Johan Borup's Song Book, FS 75: Have a look some summer day by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Johannes Mikkelsen (Piano), Ulrik Cold ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1916; Denmark 
Venue:  Hannover 
Length: 2 Minutes 8 Secs. 
36.
Strophic Songs (7), FS 42/Op. 21: no 3, Jens the road mender by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Johannes Mikkelsen (Piano), Ulrik Cold ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1902-1907; Denmark 
Venue:  Hannover 
Length: 3 Minutes 26 Secs. 
37.
Popular Melodies (20), FS 95: Like the deepest well by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Ulrik Cold (), Johannes Mikkelsen (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1917-1921; Denmark 
Venue:  Hannover 
Length: 1 Minutes 55 Secs. 
38.
Little Danish Songs (10), FS 114: no 10, Danish Song by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Ulrik Cold (), Johannes Mikkelsen (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923-1924; Denmark 
Venue:  Hannover 
Length: 2 Minutes 19 Secs. 
39.
Popular Melodies (20), FS 95: On the ground by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Ulrik Cold (), Johannes Mikkelsen (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1917-1921; Denmark 
Venue:  Hannover 
Length: 1 Minutes 51 Secs. 
40.
Danish Songs (20), Volume 1, FS 70: The groves are shining green now by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Ulrik Cold (), Johannes Mikkelsen (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914; Denmark 
Venue:  Hannover 
Length: 1 Minutes 51 Secs. 
41.
Danmark, nu blunder den lyse Nat, FS 146 by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Ulrik Cold (), Johannes Mikkelsen (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1929; Denmark 
Venue:  Hannover 
Length: 1 Minutes 47 Secs. 
42.
Danish Songs (20), Volume 2, FS 78: Out of the mist emerges my native soil by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Ulrik Cold (), Johannes Mikkelsen (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914-1917; Denmark 
Venue:  Hannover 
Length: 2 Minutes 5 Secs. 
43.
Popular Melodies (20), FS 95: Freedom is the purest gold by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Ulrik Cold (), Johannes Mikkelsen (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1917-1921; Denmark 
Venue:  Hannover 
Length: 2 Minutes 1 Secs. 
44.
Songs (5), FS 12/Op. 4 by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Johannes Mikkelsen (Piano), Ulrik Cold ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1891; Denmark 
Venue:  Hannover 
Length: 9 Minutes 26 Secs. 
45.
Songs (6), FS 18/Op. 10 by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  Johannes Mikkelsen (Piano), Ulrik Cold ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1894; Denmark 
Venue:  Hannover 
Length: 14 Minutes 13 Secs. 

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