Music
Carl Nielsen

Biography

Carl August Nielsen was born on the Danish island of Funen on 9 June 1865, the seventh of 12 children. Though desperately poor in material terms, Nielsen grew up enjoying the love and support of his family, a shared joy ...

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Biography

Carl August Nielsen was born on the Danish island of Funen on 9 June 1865, the seventh of 12 children. Though desperately poor in material terms, Nielsen grew up enjoying the love and support of his family, a shared joy in communal music-making (his house-painter father was also a musician in the village band) and an intense appreciation of the wonders of the natural world.

Nielsen initially learned the violin from his father and, in his teens, played in various local bands and orchestras. His earliest compositions date from around this time. In 1884, after four years as a military bandsman in Odense, and with the help of local benefactors, Nielsen was able to attend Copenhagen Conservatory. There he received instruction in musical theory from Orla Rosenhoff, who encouraged Nielsen’s growing interest in composition. In 1888, the 23-year-old enjoyed his first success with his Little Suite for strings, Op. 1. During the following year, Nielsen became a violinist at the Royal Danish Orchestra, a post he was to hold for some 16 years.

This period coincides with the first flush of Nielsen’s compositional maturity, taking in his two operas, the biblical epic Saul and David (1898–1901) and the comic Maskarade (1904–06), as well as the first two symphonies (1890–92 and 1901–2). The unusually deep psychological characterisation displayed in the operas extends to the Second Symphony, a musical response to a collection of folk paintings depicting the four classical temperaments. The climax of this period is undoubtedly the magnificent Third Symphony, ‘Sinfonia espansiva’ (1910–11), which consolidated Nielsen’s position as the most important Danish composer of his time.

From around the time of the First World War, Nielsen’s musical language took on a darker hue. A sense of intense struggle against inimical forces pervades such masterpieces as the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Symphonies (1914–16, 1921–2, 1924–5).These works are notable for their bold use of what is sometimes called ‘progressive tonality’, where the ultimate key of the work evolves through a process of sustained conflict against other keys. For example, the Fourth Symphony (‘The Inextinguishable’) begins in D minor, a key associated with violence and chaos, which gradually yields to the key of E major, whose appearance is always attended by music of radiant splendour.

Despite the huge intellectual scope of these works, Nielsen never lost touch with his roots and with the people he loved. Throughout his career he continually composed and arranged popular Danish songs and in 1927, four years before his death, he wrote a memoir, My Childhood. Filled with sharp observation and unaffected compassion, yet without any trace of sentimentality, this little book reveals in words the essential human qualities that characterise his music.

Profile © John Pickard

Clips (11)



Tracks (46)

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Quartet for strings no.2 in F minor (op.5)
Quartet for strings no.2 in F minor (op.5)
Cyfansoddwr
Humoresque-Bagatelles Op.11 - The Jumping Jack
Humoresque-Bagatelles Op.11 - The Jumping Jack
Perfformiwr
Martin Roscoe
Cyfansoddwr
Maskarade - opera in 3 acts FS.39
Maskarade - opera in 3 acts FS.39
Perfformiwr
Esa-Pekka Salonen
Swedish R S O
last_played_on
Little suite for string orchestra (Op.1) in A minor
Little suite for string orchestra (Op.1) in A minor
Cyfansoddwr
An imaginary journey to the Faroes - a rhapsodic overture
An imaginary journey to the Faroes - a rhapsodic overture
Cyfansoddwr
Serenata in vano FS.68 for clarinet, horn, bassoon, cello & double bass
Serenata in vano FS.68 for clarinet, horn, bassoon, cello & double bass
Cyfansoddwr
Ensemble
Diamant Ensemblet
Overture to Maskarade (FS.39)
Symphony no. 3  Op.27 (Sinfonia espansiva)
Symphony no. 3 Op.27 (Sinfonia espansiva)
Orchestra
Stockholm Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Cyfansoddwr
Conductor
last_played_on
Chaconne for piano (Op.32)
Dream on 'Silent night' [Drommen om 'Glade Jul'] for piano (FS.34)
Dream on 'Silent night' [Drommen om 'Glade Jul'] for piano (FS.34)
Perfformiwr
Cyfansoddwr
last_played_on
Symphony No.4 (Op.29) 'The Inextinguishable': 1st mvmt Allegro
Symphony No.4 (Op.29) 'The Inextinguishable': 1st mvmt Allegro
Cyfansoddwr
Conductor
last_played_on
Symphony No.1 in G minor, Op. 7: 1st mvmt Allegro
Symphony No.1 in G minor, Op. 7: 1st mvmt Allegro
Cyfansoddwr
Conductor
last_played_on
Maskarade -  Act 3; Dance of the cockerels (Hanedansen)
Maskarade - Act 3; Dance of the cockerels (Hanedansen)
Cyfansoddwr
last_played_on
2 Fantasy pieces for oboe and piano (Op.2), no.2; Humoresque
2 Fantasy pieces for oboe and piano (Op.2), no.2; Humoresque
Cyfansoddwr
last_played_on
Spraellemanden (Jumping Jack)
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (Op.33)
Overture to Maskarade (FS.39)
Overture to Maskarade (FS.39)
Cyfansoddwr
Orchestra
Norwegian Radio Orchestra
Saul og David - Act 2; Prelude
Saul og David - Act 2; Prelude
Orchestra
Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Cyfansoddwr
Serenata in vano FS.68 for clarinet, horn, bassoon, cello & d.bass
Serenata in vano FS.68 for clarinet, horn, bassoon, cello & d.bass
Cyfansoddwr
Conductor
James Campbell
Adagio con sentimento religioso, 2nd movement from String Quartet (Op.44)
Adagio con sentimento religioso, 2nd movement from String Quartet (Op.44)
Cyfansoddwr
Snefrid Suite 12:56
Snefrid Suite 12:56
Perfformiwr
Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Thomas Dausgaard (conductor)
Symphony no.5, op.50
Symphony no.5, op.50
Perfformiwr
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Esa-Pekka Salonen (conductor)
Maskarade - opera in 3 acts FS.39 i. Act 3; Dance of the cockerels (Hanedansen)
Maskarade - opera in 3 acts FS.39 i. Act 3; Dance of the cockerels (Hanedansen)
Cyfansoddwr
last_played_on
Wind Quintet (Op.43)
Wind Quintet (Op.43)
Cyfansoddwr
Perfformiwr
Katherine Thomas
Katherine Spencer
Helen Simons
Owen Dennis
Richard Bayliss
Rhapsodic Overture - An imaginary journey to the Faroes (F.S. 123)
Rhapsodic Overture - An imaginary journey to the Faroes (F.S. 123)
Cyfansoddwr
Saga Dream Op.39
Pan og Syrinx [Pan and Syrinx]  (FS.87) (Op.49)
Clarinet Concerto
Clarinet Concerto
Cyfansoddwr
Perfformiwr
Sabine Meyer (clarinet)
Maskarade -  Overture
Maskarade - Overture
Cyfansoddwr
Orchestra
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
last_played_on
Helios - overture Op.17
Helios - overture Op.17
Perfformiwr
Herbert Blomstedt
Danish Radio S O
last_played_on
Menuet in G minor
Menuet in G minor
Cyfansoddwr
Ensemble
The Danish Quartet
last_played_on
Ychwanegwch a mwynhewch eich hoff gerddoriaeth

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