Carl Nielsen: The Symphonies & Concertos

Alan Gilbert / New York Philharmonic

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Carl Nielsen: The Symphonies & Concertos Review

by Blair Sanderson

Alan Gilbert's super audio recordings of Carl Nielsen's symphonies and concertos with the New York Philharmonic are a major achievement, and DaCapo's 2015 box set brings these exceptional live performances together in one convenient package. Played with high energy and brilliance, the six symphonies were first issued on three hybrid SACDs between 2012 and 2014, and were followed by the 2015 release of the Violin Concerto, the Flute Concerto, and the Clarinet Concerto, in the same format. Gilbert has made definitive statements of Nielsen's most important orchestral works, preserved in the multichannel presentation that does them justice, both for their exquisite details and spacious sound. As Nielsen's music developed between 1891 and 1925, he grew away from the Brahmsian aesthetics that had influenced his Symphony No. 1, and discovered his distinctive voice in a blend of folklike simplicity and contrapuntal complexity, resulting in music of conflicting moods and surprising juxtapositions. Best known of the symphonies are the Symphony No. 4, "The Inextinguishable," the Symphony No. 5, and the Symphony No. 6, "Sinfonia Semplice," which are the strongest and most original works he ever composed. The Violin Concerto is in many ways a conventional work, dating from 1911, though the two wind concertos reflect the experimentation Nielsen indulged through the 1920s. This set is sure to appeal to Nielsen buffs and audiophiles, and is recommended to any who missed the individual releases.

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