Herbert Blomstedt / Melos Ensemble of London

Carl Nielsen: Symphony No. 5; Concertos; Wind Quintet

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Though the Melos Ensemble's reading of the Wind Quintet is highly entertaining and the Danish soloists' accounts of the three concertos are deeply satisfying, the real find on this two-disc set dedicated to the music of Danish modernist Carl Nielsen is Rafael Kubelik's soaring, surging performance of his Fifth Symphony. Recorded in 1983 and released only in Europe, Kubelik's Fifth is one of the great Fifths, ranking right up there with Jascha Horenstein's justly celebrated recording. With the awestruck Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra playing for him with passionate enthusiasm, Kubelik finds the dramatic heart and lyrical soul of Nielsen's two-movement masterpiece, making it sound as grand, as vital, and as glorious as the greatest works of its time. The remaining performances here are nearly as fine in their own ways. The three Danish soloists in the concertos sound like they were born playing the music and with Herbert Blomstedt sympathetically leading the same orchestra, their 1975 performances sound wholly virtuosic and utterly idiomatic. England's Melos Ensemble cannot claim the same feeling for Nielsen's idiom, but its 1967 recording of the Wind Quintet has a real feeling for the music's wit and joy. Throughout, the recording quality is clear, warm, and present. Anyone interested in Nielsen's music who has not already heard Kubelik's Fifth will be happy to make its acquaintance.

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