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Donald Macleod measures the significance of Carl Nielsen's partnership with his sculptor wife, Anne-Marie Brodersen.

Donald Macleod measures the significance of Carl Nielsen’s partnership with his sculptor wife, Anne-Marie Brodersen.

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.

Nielsen’s family was central to his life as an artist. Meeting Anne-Marie Brodersen and marrying her soon afterwards began a remarkable and enduring association in which Nielsen would find support creatively and personally until his death in 1931.

Five Piano Pieces Op. 3 (Humoresque: Allegretto giocoso)
Martin Roscoe, piano

Little Suite for Strings (Intermezzo)
New Stockholm Chamber Orchestra
Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

6 Songs, Op 10
No.1 Aebleblomst
Inger Dam-Jensen, soprano
Ulrich Staerk, piano
No. 2 Erindringens
No. 4 Sang bag ploven
Morten Ernst Lassen, baritone
Ulrich Staerk, piano

Symphony No.1 (Allegro orgoglioso)
San Francisco Symphony
Herbert Blomstedt, conductor

Hymnus Amoris
Barbara Bonney, soprano
John Mark Ainsley, tenor
Lars Pedersen, tenor
Michael W. Hansen, baritone
Bo Anker Hansen, bass
The Danish National Radio Choir
Copenhagen Boys’ Choir
The Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
Ulf Schirmer, conductor

Benedictus Dominus (3 Motets)
Canzone Choir
Frans Rasmussen, director

23 days left to listen

59 minutes

Music Played

  • Carl Nielsen

    Humoresque (5 Pieces, Op 3)

    Performer: Martin Roscoe.
    • HYPERION : CDA-67591/2.
    • HYPERION.
    • 41.
  • Carl Nielsen

    Little Suite for strings, Op 1 (Intermezzo)

    Orchestra: Stockholms Nya Kammarorkester. Conductor: Esa‐Pekka Salonen.
    • SONY G010003844956L.
    • SONY.
    • 6.
  • Carl Nielsen

    6 Songs on poems by Ludvig Holstein, Op 10 (extracts)

    Performer: Ulrich Staerk. Singer: Inger Dam-Jensen. Singer: Morten Ernst Lassen.
    • DaCapo: 8224218.
    • DaCapo.
    • 11.
  • Carl Nielsen

    Symphony No 1 in G minor, Op 7 (1st movement)

    Performer: San Francisco Symphony. Conductor: Herbert Blomstedt.
    • Decca 425 607-2.
    • Decca.
    • 1.
  • Carl Nielsen

    Hymnus Amoris, Op 12

    Performer: DR SymfoniOrkestret. Singer: Barbara Bonney. Singer: John Mark Ainsley. Singer: Chief 1. Singer: Michael Wilhelm Hansen. Singer: Bo Anker Hansen. Choir: Danish National Radio Choir. Choir: Københavns Drengekor. Conductor: Ulf Schirmer.
    • DECCA : 4609882-.
    • DECCA.
    • 8.
  • Carl Nielsen

    Benedictus Dominus (3 Motets, Op 55)

    Choir: Canzone-Koret. Conductor: Frans Rasmussen.
    • DanaCord 368.
    • DanaCord.
    • 28.

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