Donald Macleod surveys Nielsen’s post-war years including his Wind Quintet and Fourth Symphony.
Donald Macleod surveys Nielsen’s post war years including his Wind Quintet and Fourth 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.
From 1920 onwards the growing popularity of Nielsen’s music abroad presented him with opportunities to travel, including a rather eventful trip to London.
Frans Rasmussen, director
Wind Quintet: (1: Allegro ben moderato)
Wind Quintet of the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
Pan og Syrinx, Op.49
Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Thomas Dausgaard, conductor
Sonata for violin and piano no 2, Op.35 (2: molto adagio)
Jon Gjesme, violin
Jens Elvekjaer, piano
Maskarade (excerpt from Act 2)
Henriette Bonde-Hansen, soprano, Leonora
Gert-Henning Jensen, tenor, Leander
Marianne Rørholm, mezzo soprano, Pernille
Bo Skovhus, baritone, Henrik
The Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
Ulf Schirmer, conductor
Symphony No.4 (1: Allegro)
San Francisco Symphony
Herbert Blomstedt, conductor