Danish National Symphony Orchestra

Carl Nielsen: Orchestral Music

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Much of the music on this disc is unknown outside Denmark, but perhaps this superb recording by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra under Thomas Dausgaard will change that situation. Listeners in Anglophone countries tend to know Carl Nielsen through his symphonies, weighty and formally ambitious; his lighter music is represented mostly by the comic opera Maskarade, and that only intermittently. Two orchestral interludes from that opera open the present disc, and it would be hard to find a sharper and, if you will, dryly Danish reading of the overture like that delivered here. The program consists mostly of short programmatic pieces and of excerpts from sets of incidental music, and much of it is delightful. The early Snefrid, suite for orchestra (1894), contains a "love music" movement that Nielsen played for a friend, reporting that "he simply blushed at the sensual character of the music"; modern hearers will discover some beautiful high string writing, executed with focus by the Danish National Symphony. For sheer romance, there's the overture Amor og Digteren (Cupid and the Poet) of 1930. The second half of the program includes two movements rooted in evocations of nature -- the sea in the Rhapsody Overture: An Imaginary Journey to the Faroe Islands and woodland scenes in Pan and Syrinx: Nature Scene for Orchestra. The Faeroese journey builds from quiet seas to a big outburst of action; the orchestra's dynamic range will give any stereo system a workout (and indeed a cut above the minimum will be needed to apprehend the low tones of the opening bars). The musicians and conductor show that they know this music well and yet always find it new, providing a disc that should be part of any collection of orchestral music.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Maskarade (Masquerade), opera, FS 39
1
4:21
2
5:42
Herr Oluf han rider (Master Oluf Rides), incidental music, FS 37
3
5:38
Snefrid, melodrama, FS 17
4
2:15
5
2:43
6
2:03
7
3:27
8
2:33
Saul og David (Saul and David), opera, FS 25
9
5:08
10
10:17
Willemoes, incidental music, FS 44
11
2:11
12
8:43
Amor og Digteren (Amor and the Poet), incidental music, FS 150 (Op. 54)
13
5:22
14
11:55
blue highlight denotes track pick