Carl Nielsen: Violin Concerto; Flute Concerto; Clarinet Concerto

Robert Langevin / Anthony McGill / Nikolaj Znaider / Alan Gilbert / New York Philharmonic

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Carl Nielsen: Violin Concerto; Flute Concerto; Clarinet Concerto Review

by Blair Sanderson

Carl Nielsen wrote three concertos for instruments he knew intimately: the Violin Concerto, which he composed in the middle of his career, and two late works, the Flute Concerto and the Clarinet Concerto. Of these pieces, the Violin Concerto is the most conventional in its lyrical style, and flashy virtuosic displays, reflecting the norms of a late Romantic concerto of the Brahmsian stripe. Yet even here, Nielsen's mature personality shows in the unusual instrumental match-ups in the orchestral accompaniment, the spinning out of long, folklike melodies, and the use of a two-movement form, which he used again in the Flute Concerto and the Fifth Symphony. Products of the 1920s, the Flute Concerto and the Clarinet Concerto reveal Nielsen's explorations of modernist techniques, and are notable for their unstable tonality, unsettled moods, angular lines, and the extraordinary independence in the orchestral sections, which provide a dramatic and even disruptive counterpoint against the solo parts. These audiophile recordings by Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic conclude their Nielsen Project on DaCapo, which also includes the six symphonies. The exceptional performances by violinist Nikolaj Znaider, flutist Robert Langevin, and clarinetist Anthony McGill are presented in heightened relief with close microphone placement, which helps balance them against the sometimes chaotic scoring, especially in the Clarinet Concerto. Collectors should note that this disc and the symphonies are available on separate hybrid SACDs and in a box set.

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