Alan Gilbert / New York Philharmonic

Carl Nielsen: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 6

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Concluding their exceptional audiophile series of the symphonies of Carl Nielsen on DaCapo, Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic present the Symphony No. 5 and the Symphony No. 6, "Sinfonia Semplice," the two most challenging works in the cycle. Nielsen was not comfortable with the changes modernism brought to classical concert music, and his misgivings are conveyed in the increasingly abrasive counterpoint and violent interruptions he provided as commentary in both works. While the Fifth Symphony retains traditional aspects of symphonic structure, and many passages are quite ravishing, it is most notable for the explosive ad libitum snare drum solo which threatens to derail the first part, and the dissonant fugues that dominate the second part. Even more unsettling is the Sixth Symphony, which is far from a simple symphony. From the tonally unstable and volatile first movement, through the sarcastic Humoresque and the enigmatic Proposta seria, to the forced comedy of the Theme and Variations, Gilbert and the NYP convey the bitterness and frustration Nielsen felt toward the end of his career, and the performance is quite disconcerting, as it should be. The orchestra's playing is vivid to the the point of being startling, and it holds nothing back in the most climactic moments. Highly recommended.

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