Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphonies: No. 1; No. 6
Colin Davis, cond; London SO
LSO LIVE LS00715 (SACD: 68:11) Live: London 2011
"The Nielsen First Symphony has had a fortunate recording history. Most Americans became aware of Nielsen’s music in the early 1960s, with the CBS release of Leonard Bernstein’s incandescent performance of the Fifth Symphony. Not long afterward came a similarly galvanizing Third Symphony performance from Bernstein, this time with the Royal Danish Orchestra. And soon following, two fine
recordings of the Symphony No. 1 were released at about the same time: Ormandy’s with Philadelphia, and Previn’s with the LSO. (Lovers of the Second Symphony were pretty much dependent for some years on a fine budget record by the Tivoli Concert Orchestra under Carl Caraguly, available on Nonesuch.)
This reviewer grew up on the Previn recording. It was always near-perfect, I felt, capturing with appropriate weight the early Bruckner lurking within the piece, and just the right emotional hesitation in the great chromatic low brass declamations of the slow movement. In subsequent years, standing out from a large and generally fine pack, Salonen gave us a super-energized and lyrical account of the piece. And I’ve always had a soft spot for the Rozhdestvensky on Chandos, except for his cartoonish mad dash at the end, which trivializes all that went before.
It is a special delight, then, to say that this new Colin Davis performance with the London Symphony is everything the earlier performances were—and more. As far as I’m concerned, the search stops here. The Nielsen First Symphony is orchestrated in a heavier and more bottom-weighted manner than most other Nielsen orchestral works, and this falls perfectly in line with Sir Colin’s famous concern for solid pedal sonorities. He and the orchestra are on fire here, and the engineers have managed to give us all the weight and solidity from timpani and lower strings one could wish for, without any of the claustrophobia that has characterized so many CDs made in London’s Barbican. There is even a surprising amount of ambience for the SACD listeners. This is an exceptionally satisfying performance. Rare for this conductor, there are no eccentricities—not a single one. Indeed, it makes one wish Sir Colin had more of an affinity for Bruckner. The first three Bruckner symphonies done in this solid and straightforward a manner would be fine indeed."
FANFARE: Steven Kruger
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 1 in G minor, Op. 7 by Carl Nielsen
Sir Colin Davis
London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1890-1892; Denmark
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