Thomas Jensen & John Frandsen conduct Nielsen

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Despite his impressive output of six grand, unique symphonies, Carl Nielsen is a composer with whom few listeners are fortunate enough to have extensive contact. Concertgoers can wait a decade or more before seeing one of his symphonies programmed on a major orchestra ticket. This is truly a shame as Nielsen's symphonies are generally easily accessible, filled with delightful melodies, intense rhythmic drive, and unique concepts of the symphonic form. This Dutton album celebrates not only Nielsen's music, but some of the most historically significant recordings of it. The Third Symphony, which draws its subtitle of "Sinfonia Espansiva" from the first movement character markings, is the only symphony in which Nielsen included a vocal part. In this case, wordless soprano and baritone parts are designed to blend into the orchestral texture in the second movement rather than come to the fore. The Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra is led by John Frandsen, a Nielsen student who also played under Nielsen's baton. Though not a technically flawless performance, Frandsen does a remarkable job of capturing the enormous sonorities that Nielsen calls for throughout the symphony. The 1955 recording is restored well, though sometimes the exuberant brass prove a bit too much. The Sixth Symphony, subtitled "Sinfonia Semplice," is by far the most nebulous for listeners. Thought to be a commentary on compositional trends of the time, the score is filled with unique harmonic language, unusual scoring choices, and complex rhythmic passages. Conductor Thomas Jensen navigates the DSRSO through these tempestuous waters in a musically secure though technically imprecise reading. While there are recordings available that offer better technical performances, few can surpass the sense of national pride captured here.

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