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Classic Library - Nielsen: Symphonies 2 & 4 / Gould, Martinon, Chicago Symphony

Release Date: 03/28/2006 
Label:  Rca Victor Red Seal Catalog #: 76237   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Carl Nielsen
Performer:  James GalwaySioned Williams
Conductor:  Morton GouldJean Martinon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is one of those proverbial "desert island" discs. Perhaps Martinon and Gould's experience and insight as composers explains why they understood what Nielsen wanted: music played to the nines, with all of the interpretive touches subordinated to making each symphony sound as exciting as hell. You might expect that more conductors would adopt this "life or death" approach in the Fourth Symphony, but they usually don't. Martinon's swift tempos, underlined at every point by thrilling playing from the Chicago Symphony, make this work truly "inextinguishable", that timpani battle in the finale offering the last word in clarity combined with explosive energy. You'll love the way Martinon sticks to his original Read more tempo until just before the final appearance of the symphony's motto theme, where he brings out the canonic brass parts to a degree unmatched in any other performance. In short, everything that he does has a musical point and serves the work.

The same observations hold true of The Four Temperaments. How many times have we heard interpretations where the whole symphony sounds "flammatico", not just the laid-back Poco allegretto second movement? No other performance whips up the first-movement coda to such a frenzy of excitement, or drives the finale so dazzlingly from first note to last.

Of course, it helps that both conductors have a real virtuoso band at their beck and call. Historically, a problem with Nielsen performances is that the music is played by less than world-class orchestras, and it demands nothing less. This was the one flaw in Kuchar's recent outstanding complete cycle for Brilliant Classics, but it's just as true of most others as well. So not only are the interpretations outstanding, they also reveal more of the music's too-often-latent possibilities from a purely technical point of view.

The couplings, Martinon's version of Helios Overture along with a bit of flute and harp incidental music from The Mother (played by James Galway and Sioned Williams), are nice to have, the former every bit as fine a performance as that of the Fourth. Both symphonies were released abroad on RCA's "Navigator" series, but the remastered sound is audibly superior in this issue: more vivid and open, and in the "Inextinguishable", just that much roomier (though still a touch tight). If you are just starting a Nielsen collection, let this disc be your first acquisition. You can't do better. [4/14/2006]
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Symphony no 2 in B minor, Op. 16 "The Four Temperaments" by Carl Nielsen
Conductor:  Morton Gould
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1901-1902; Denmark 
Length: 29 Minutes 24 Secs. 
Symphony no 4, Op. 29 "Inextinguishable" by Carl Nielsen
Conductor:  Jean Martinon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914-1916; Denmark 
Length: 32 Minutes 39 Secs. 
Helios Overture, FS 32/Op. 17 by Carl Nielsen
Conductor:  Jean Martinon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903; Denmark 
Length: 12 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Mother, Op. 41: The fog is lifting by Carl Nielsen
Performer:  James Galway (Flute), Sioned Williams (Harpsichord)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920; Denmark 
Date of Recording: 02/25/1986 
Venue:  CBS Studios, London 
Length: 2 Minutes 4 Secs. 

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