Main content

Donald Macleod explores Carl Nielsen’s world view through his music. Today, the Helios Overture and part of the composer's Symphony No 2, 'The Four Temperaments'.

Donald Macleod explores Carl Nielsen’s world view through his music. Today - the Helios Overture and part of his second symphony.

You’ll find a clue as to Carl Nielsen’s character in any number of photographs that show him smiling; they include snaps of him taken as a young man in which he’s cheekily pulling funny faces for the camera. They’re far removed from the formal portraiture one might expect of Denmark’s foremost composer. As well as a good sense of humour, these unselfconscious poses reveal an open, inquisitive fascination with the world around him. Looking back at his life in 1925, at the age of 60, Nielsen recognised this trait in himself. “From my childhood”, he wrote, “I have been full of an oddly intense curiosity which has made me see something interesting in every human creature.” His talent for observation acted as a powerful stimulus to Nielsen’s musical mind.

Across the week Donald explores how the world around him fed into Nielsen’s music. Excerpts from five of his symphonies reveal some of his most profound thinking on life, while his major choral works Hymnus Amoris and Springtime in Funen - which directly relate to his rural childhood - show a more personal side of his character. Ever the keen observer, there’s comedy and drama and even a musical portrait of chickens to be found in his operas.

Life and motion stimulated Nielsen's musical imagination in a variety of contrasting ways. Today Donald explores some of those avenues and the music these experiences stimulated.

Maskarade: Overture
Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Thomas Dausgaard, conductor

Violin concerto, Op.33 (Rondo: Allegretto scherzando)
Dong-Suk Kang, violin
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Myung-Whun Chung, conductor

Frihed er det bedste guld
Ars Nova Copenhagen
Michael Bojesen, conductor

Helios Overture
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Järvi, conductor

Afflictus Sum (3 Motets)
Canzone Choir
Frans Rasmussen, director

21 days left to listen

59 minutes

Music Played

  • Carl Nielsen

    Maskarade: Overture

    Orchestra: DR SymfoniOrkestret. Conductor: Thomas Dausgaard.
    • DACAPO : 6220518.
    • DACAPO.
    • 1.
  • Carl Nielsen

    Violin Concerto, Op 33 (Rondo)

    Performer: Dong-Suk Kang. Orchestra: Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Myung-Whun Chung.
    • BIS : CD-616.
    • BIS.
    • 3.
  • Carl Nielsen

    Frihed er det bedste guld

    Performer: Ars Nova Copenhagen. Conductor: Michael Bojesen.
    • DaCapo 6220569.
    • DaCapo.
    • 10.
  • Carl Nielsen

    Helios Overture, Op 17

    Orchestra: Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Neeme Järvi.
    • DG 447 757-2.
    • DG.
    • 5.
  • Carl Nielsen

    3 Motets, Op 55

    Choir: Canzone-Koret. Conductor: Frans Rasmussen.
    • DanaCord DACOCD 368.
    • DanaCord.
    • 26.
  • Carl Nielsen

    String Quartet No 1 in G minor, Op 13

    Ensemble: Danish String Quartet.
    • DaCapo: 6220521.
    • DaCapo.
    • 1.
  • Carl Nielsen

    Symphony No 2, Op 16 (The Four Temperaments) (4th movement)

    Performer: Irish National Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Adrian Leaper.
    • Naxos 8550825.
    • Naxos.
    • 4.

Broadcast

Composers A to Z

Composers A to Z

Visit the extensive audio archive of Radio 3 programmes about Composers and their works.

Who knew? Five eye-opening stories from Composer of the Week

Who knew? Five eye-opening stories from Composer of the Week

Johannah Smith reflects on five of Donald Macleod’s best stories from the last 20 years…

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

The composer of Jerusalem was very far from the conservative figure his image suggests.

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

What is the strange power of Jerusalem which makes strong men weep?

Composer Help Page

Composer Help Page

Find resources and contacts for composers from within the classical music industry.