Carl Nielsen: Symphonies Nos. 1-6; Flute & Clarinet Concertos; Orchestral Music

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Since this collection is not arranged in a clear order, the discs are taken here in sequence. The first features Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra performing Nielsen's First and Sixth symphonies and two excerpts from Maskarade. Overly lush and bolstered with unwarranted additional doublings, Ormandy's readings lack the sharp focus Nielsen's music requires. The second disc features Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic performing the Second and Fourth symphonies, both marred by Bernstein's excessive rubato and some bothersome recording defects. On the third disc, the Royal Danish Orchestra performs the Symphony No. 3. At home in this music, the ensemble guides the performance, and Bernstein's tampering seems minimal. Back with the New York Philharmonic for the Symphony No. 5, Bernstein reverts to his customary elastic tempi and gives an overheated account. Julius Baker's performance of the flute concerto and Stanley Drucker's of the clarinet concerto on the fourth disc are perhaps the best offerings of the set, and their control and precision are welcome antidotes to the previously cited excesses. The Helios overture, Pan and Syrinx, and the Rhapsodic Overture are unexceptional filler. While this set is an interesting time capsule of the Nielsen revival, Herbert Blomstedt's idiomatic recordings are preferred.