Who would have guessed it? True, Carl Nielsen is one of the great symphonists of the first decades of the twentieth century. True, Gennady Rozhdestvensky is one of the best conductors of the last decades of the same century. True, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra has been the best orchestra in Sweden for the past century. But who would have guessed that a Swedish orchestra under a Russian conductor would turn in one of the best cycles of the complete symphonies of the great Danish composer? And on an English label, at that?
Yet here it is. It is true that the Stockholm Philharmonic is a polished orchestra but their performances here sound deeply dedicated, too. It is true that Rozhdestvensky is a precise conductor, but his interpretations here sound completely compelling. It is true that with Rozhdestvensky and the Stockholm, Nielsen sounds less Danish modern than European modernist. Their vision of Nielsen is larger than Denmark, larger even than Scandinavia. Their vision of Nielsen is, indeed, visionary. Their Nielsen is lyrical, dramatic, and epic. He is an uncompromising idealist, but he is also deeply compassionate, always hopeful, and profoundly human. Chandos' '90s digital sound is deep and round, but perhaps a bit too reverberant.