Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphonies: No. 4,
Michael Schønwandt, cond; Danish Natl SO
NAXOS 8.570739 (74:55)
For a single disc coupling these two great symphonies in good sound, the Naxos reissue of a dacapo original is probably the way to go, though it is not the last word. Ole Schmidt’s old Unicorn release (currently on Regis) builds a greater sense of anticipation and wonder at the start of the Fourth. Yet Schønwandt
delivers, whether in the timpani duel at the end of the “Inextinguishable,” or via the grand conclusion to the Fifth.
To be picky, the side drum in the Fifth’s Adagio is too polite, but it nearly always is. No conductor picks up Nielsen’s challenge of portraying actual conflict, unless it’s Bernstein. Horenstein is still close to ideal in the Fifth, while Nielsen newcomers should consider the excellent EMI bargain box, containing Blomstedt’s very powerful first Nielsen symphony cycle, and much more. Historical recordings from Thomas Jensen and Tor Mann are essential listening, and they sound genuinely authentic.
There’s still no ideal recording of either symphony: this composer is tough to play. Yet I don’t come away from Nielsen thinking about recording comparisons. I leave convinced that life is worth living. That trick works again here on Naxos. Schønwandt should try to convince Berlin or Vienna or Cleveland to let him direct a well-rehearsed Nielsen cycle, but these faithful, big-scale performances won’t disappoint anyone collecting this budget series.
FANFARE: Paul Ingram
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 5, Op. 50 by Carl Nielsen
Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1921-1922; Denmark
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