Nielsen Symphonies

Discussion in 'Classical Music' started by tones, Sep 26, 2004.

  1. tones

    tones compulsive cantater

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    I picked up a couple of CDs very cheap the other day (total of CHF10, or about £4.50, for both). They had Symphonies 1, 2, 5 and 6. It's pleasant enough, tuneful enough stuff, but it actually doesn't seem to go anywhere, a collection of bits, rather than a whole. Music to work in the garage by. Am I being unkind or premature in my judgement? Does it grow on you?
     
    tones, Sep 26, 2004
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  2. tones

    pe-zulu

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    Dear Tones
    Being danish I have certainly heard the symphonies of Carl Nielsen a lot of times. Your description is in my opinion very
    good: nice music without urgent inner coherence. I find that he was greatest in the small forms: the small piano pieces, the organ-preludes, the small danish songs and so on. But one work of some length I find exellent: The "Commotio" for organ , a rather late and mature work. And perhaps his windquintet too.
    Venlig hilsen
     
    pe-zulu, Sep 26, 2004
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  3. tones

    PeteH Natural Blue

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    Actually the first symphony is one of my absolute late Romantic (as opposed to late-Romantic) favourites - real earthy, get-up-and-go, air-conductor stuff with an elemental excitement reminiscent of both Bach and Bartok. The others I'm still trying to pin down more exactly - the Second strikes me as perhaps a little wandery, but the Fourth is definitely another tight, urgent Sibelius-meets-Walton kind of experience (and the Fifth I haven't got a recording of).
     
    PeteH, Sep 26, 2004
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  4. tones

    GrahamN

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    YES...and yes























    OK...so in slightly more detail, I also found Nielsen a bit inconsequential at first, but one you get into it things do make a lot more sense. I'd suggest putting most effort into the 5th to start with, then 1st and 4th, and if that doesn't make sense then give up. There does seem to be a common "type" about 20th cent Baltic music, sort of leading on from Sibelius 4 and 6 - variations on the landscape, vast empty places, and a self-contained introversion ooze from each pore - and it may be that this is just not for you. It took quite a time for me to "get" his violin concerto, but now that's up there with my other favourites (although nowhere near the Sibelius).

    You didn't say who the performers are, but I would also wonder whether the performances are doing the business. Even though I quite like Nielsen, I have to admit that his music does need a good performance to come off. Truly great music can get itself heard even through a 2nd rate rendition, but anything ordinarily good does need a sympathetic executant. For example, a year or so back I got an Opus set of JSB's Brandeburgs and Orchestral suites (from the Slovak Chamber Orch) for about £2.99 - while the Brandenburgs are still enjoyable, the Suites really don't make any impression at all. Back to Nielsen though, following a recommendation from Alanbeeb I recently picked up the Bernstein/Ormandy 4CD set of symphonies, concerti and overtures for about a tenner. The performance of the 1st is truly wonderful. The other top recco is Herbert Blomstedt/SFSO on Decca, most of which I've had for many years.

    Leading on from Sibelius then Nielsen, I'm now a bit of a Baltic music addict, with pretty much full symph cycles from Holmboe, Tubin, a fair bit of Rautavaara, and odd one offs, and must get some Langaard some time (although he's extremely variable....even sometimes within the space of a few bars). From an earlier era Gade (sort of Danish Mendelssohn) seems to be getting increasing amounts of air time nowadays.

    P.S. Ah looks like we have a genuine expert on the board...I don't really know anything about Nielsen's small scale stuff.
     
    GrahamN, Sep 26, 2004
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  5. tones

    tones compulsive cantater

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    Thanks, gents, OK, I won't use them as coasters just yet. They came from a series called "Scandinavian Classics", although the performers are the distinctly unScandinavian Royal Liverpuddle Philharmonic under Douglas Bostock. As I said, it was cheap and worth a fling.

    With regard to Sibelius, Graham, I found an instant, rugged appeal, which I simply don't find here. I can't say I noticed any Sibelian resonances in Nielsen, but perhaps by that stage my attention had permanently wandered.
     
    tones, Sep 26, 2004
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  6. tones

    alanbeeb Grumpy young fogey

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    What....Nielsen inconsequential!!!! :eek: I am aghast!

    Indifferent perfomances of any music can turn you off...

    IMHO The 5th is possibly the greatest symphony written in the C.20th. You simply must hear the performance of it by Leonard Bernstein and the NY Phil from the 1960's, used to be on Sony but not sure if currently available. I reckon its one of the greatest recorded performances of anything I've heard.

    The 4th is excellent too... there is a very good Karajan/BPO performance on DG but again not sure if currently available. The other good one is Blomstedt/San Fransicsco on Decca - his whole set of 6 is very good but the 5th doesn't match Bernstein's.

    The 3rd is very good... not yet heard a recording of it that totally satisifies but Blomstedt/SFO or Berglund/Royal Danish are good. Radio 3 Building a Library once recommended Jarvi/Gothenburg but not sure if it was released outside of the complete set, and have not heard it myself.

    The 1st and 2nd are nice but not crucial IMO, Blomstedt serves them well.

    I have to confess I just don't get the sixth.... its wierd and strange and maybe I just have not heard the performance to convince me yet - I've got Ormandy, Blomstedt and Berglund and none of them really works for me.
     
    alanbeeb, Sep 26, 2004
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  7. tones

    lordsummit moderate mod

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    Have you heard the Ole Schmidt recordings from the 1970's as performed by the LSO. Stunning. I like numbers 3, 4 and 5 particularly. Schmidt conducts them like a man posessed. Highly recommended especially at £13.50 for the complete set from MDT
     
    lordsummit, Nov 5, 2004
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