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Donald Macleod explores how Carl Nielsen’s childhood fired his musical imagination in his choral work, Springtime in Funen.

Donald Macleod explores how Carl Nielsen’s childhood fired his musical imagination in his choral work, Springtime in Funen.

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.

In the second part of his survey Donald dips into Nielsen’s autobiography. While not shying away from the genuine hardship the family endured, it conjures up a warm-hearted, vivid evocation of his childhood years spent on the island of Funen, which in turn he was able to depict musically.

The Cockerel’s Dance (Maskarade)
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Järvi, conductor

Se dig ud en sommerdag
Ars Nova Copenhagen
Michael Bojesen, conductor

Chaconne, Op.32
Martin Roscoe, piano

Symphony no.3 (1: Allegro espansivo)
Frankfurt Radio Symphony
Paavo Järvi, conductor

String Quintet in G major (3: Allegretto scherzando)
The Young Danish String Quartet
Tim Frederiksen, viola

Springtime in Funen, Op.42
Asa Baverstam, soprano
Linnéa Ekdahl, soprano
Kjel Magnus Sandve, tenor
Per Hyoer, baritone
Andréas Thors, boy soprano
Stockholm Boys' Choir
Swedish Radio Choir and Symphony Orchestra
Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

21 days left to listen

59 minutes

Music Played

  • Carl Nielsen

    The Cockerel's Dance (Maskarade)

    Orchestra: Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Neeme Järvi.
    • DG 447 757-2.
    • DG.
    • 3.
  • Carl Nielsen

    Se dig ud en sommerdag (Look about one summer day)

    Ensemble: Ars Nova Copenhagen. Conductor: Michael Bojesen.
    • DaCapo 6220569.
    • DaCapo.
    • 9.
  • Carl Nielsen

    Chaconne, Op 32

    Performer: Martin Roscoe.
    • HYPERION : CDA-67591/2.
    • HYPERION.
    • 27.
  • Carl Nielsen

    Symphony No 3, Op 27 (1st movement)

    Orchestra: Frankfurt Radio Orchestra. Conductor: Paavo Järvi.
    • RCA 88875178802.
    • RCA.
    • 1.
  • Carl Nielsen

    String Quintet in G major (3rd movement)

    Performer: Tim Frederiksen. Ensemble: Danish String Quartet.
    • DaCapo: 6220521.
    • DaCapo.
    • 11.
  • Carl Nielsen

    Springtime on Funen, Op 42

    Performer: Sveriges Radios Symfoniorkester. Singer: Per Hyoer. Singer: Andreas Thors. Singer: Åsa Bäverstam. Singer: Kjell Magnus Sandve. Choir: Stockholm Boys' Choir. Singer: Linnéa Ekdahl. Choir: Radiokören. Conductor: Esa‐Pekka Salonen.
    • Sony G010001399956C.
    • Sony.
    • 1.

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