Colin Davis / Marcus Farnsworth / Lucy Hall / London Symphony Orchestra

Nielsen: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3

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As Colin Davis performed a valuable service for Jean Sibelius by recording definitive versions of his symphonies and tone poems, so too did he leave a legacy of authoritative recordings of Carl Nielsen's symphonies. In the United States, fresh recordings of any Nielsen symphonies are sporadic, and the early symphonies tend to get overlooked and under-performed, so it's important that newcomers encounter excellent recordings to get positive first impressions. Thanks to Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra, the Symphony No. 2, "The Four Temperaments," and the Symphony No. 3, "Sinfonia Espansiva," received first-rate live readings in December 2011 at London's Barbican, and the performances were recorded with exceptional clarity and depth on the orchestra's super audio label. Nielsen's muscular counterpoint and incisive rhythms come across with confidence and strength, and the propulsive energy of the fast movements is exciting to hear. Yet Nielsen's lilting folk-inspired melodies in the slow movements are played with a tenderness that never becomes sentimental, but they retain a resilient quality that bespeaks a modern outlook. Indeed, Davis' interpretations are carefully balanced between Nielsen's late Romantic lyricism and his increasingly acerbic expression. The recording is phenomenal, as it is in the other Nielsen SACDs in the LSO Live series, so audiophiles are in for a treat.

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