Carl Nielsen's First and Sixth symphonies are frequently paired, though they are extremely different works. The Symphony No. 1 (1892) is an optimistic work of great skill and youthful vigor, written when Nielsen was still relatively unknown. While this solidly Romantic symphony clearly shows a Brahmsian influence, especially in the first movement, the music's muscular confidence and plaintive, flatted-seventh lyricism are unmistakably Nielsen's. The Symphony No. 6, nicknamed "Sinfonia semplice" by the composer with some trepidation, is the most perplexing and ambiguous of his symphonies. Completed in 1925, the work reflects the aged Nielsen's anxiety over avant-garde innovations and societal changes. The symphony outwardly appears to be a comic work, brimming over with engaging melodies and slapstick humor. Yet the violent interruptions in the first and fourth movements, the sniping and snarling of the "Humoreske," and the odd ending of the "Proposta Seria" all point to Nielsen's uncertain stance in the face of change; and the bitter sentiments he expressed privately about the direction of music and the composer's place in the world reinforce the impression that this work is not a simple frolic. The National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, conducted by Adrian Leaper, turns in vital performances, particularly of the Sixth, which it plays honestly and without blunting the work's edge.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Symphony No. 1 in G minor, FS 16 (Op. 7)|
|Symphony No. 6 ("Sinfonia semplice"), FS 116|