Nielsen: Where to Start?

Started by NumberSix, July 02, 2024, 07:28:32 PM

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NumberSix

Certainly no excuse for wrong notes on a studio recording. I suppose you could argue budget, but it certainly doesn't make you look good.

DavidW

Quote from: DaveF on July 04, 2024, 10:44:03 AMThe only steering clear that I would counsel, sadly, is of the symphony cycle by the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Theodore Kuchar. 

A recording so dull that it set me back years into getting into Nielsen!

NumberSix

Listening to this No. 4 by Blomstedt now. The first movement just completed. It's beautiful - and very accessible.


NumberSix

Quote from: NumberSix on July 04, 2024, 11:35:05 AMListening to this No. 4 by Blomstedt now. The first movement just completed. It's beautiful - and very accessible.



Wow, that fourth movement, where it gets all quiet and then explodes into the drums. And then that last two minutes of Romantic beauty.

Sigh. I love this.

Brian

Excellent, another member of the fan club!

(I think I also started with 4, then worked my way backwards to the more traditional romantic and forward to 6, which I still don't "get.")

(poco) Sforzando

Quote from: Brian on July 04, 2024, 12:37:49 PMExcellent, another member of the fan club!

(I think I also started with 4, then worked my way backwards to the more traditional romantic and forward to 6, which I still don't "get.")

6 written in 1924 is a little difficult. How many other symphonies end with no more than a sustained low Bb on two bassoons. My personal theory is that the fragmentary 2nd movement is Nielsen's parody of the tendencies of the 2nd Viennese School to short aphoristic statements. Wikipedia: In the notes Nielsen wrote for the symphony's premiere, he said that wind and percussion in the movement "quarrel, each sticking to his own tastes and inclinations"; Nielsen went on to liken this to the musical world of the time.
"I don't know what sforzando means, though it clearly means something."

DavidW

Quote from: Brian on July 04, 2024, 12:37:49 PMExcellent, another member of the fan club!

(I think I also started with 4, then worked my way backward to the more traditional romantic and forward to 6, which I still don't "get.")

That is funny because I have more problems with 3-4 than the rest.  I like the exuberance of 1-2 and love the masterful works of 5-6.

Mirror Image

I think if you can find your way into the 5th symphony, the rest should follow. The 5th is still one of my favorite works from Nielsen. Also @Brian doesn't get the 6th (aka Sinfonia semplice), but I understood it the first-time I heard it. It is truly a quirky work, but I think it points in a direction Nielsen was heading before he passed away. The wind concerti are also definitely worth your time. I would also say that Saga-Drøm is worth getting to know. Of the chamber works, the 2nd Violin Sonata and the Wind Quintet are most definitely worth your acquaintance.
"You cannot set art off in a corner and hope for it to have vitality, reality, and substance." ― Charles Ives

Karl Henning

Weird: I thought I posted this, but I suppose not.

A minor work, yes, but superb and ingratiating:

Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Daverz

My problem with Symphony No. 6 is that it's always described as problematical, but as simply a listener I've never understood what the problem was.  See also Mahler's Symphony No. 7.

Symphonic Addict

Quote from: Daverz on July 11, 2024, 12:53:50 PMMy problem with Symphony No. 6 is that it's always described as problematical, but as simply a listener I've never understood what the problem was.

I concur, and I'd go beyond: is Nielsen a "problematical" composer at all? Of course, his music is or seems more complex on the score, but on the ear is quite easygoing overall. It puzzles me when somebody says he or she doesn't get his music.
Part of the tragedy of the Palestinians is that they have essentially no international support for a good reason: they've no wealth, they've no power, so they've no rights.

Noam Chomsky

Mirror Image

Quote from: Symphonic Addict on July 11, 2024, 03:07:39 PMIt puzzles me when somebody says he or she doesn't get his music.

I feel the same way when someone says that don't get Schoenberg. ;) But in all seriousness, Nielsen isn't as accessible as you want to believe he is and this notion is something that has crossed my own mind several times. Don't get me wrong, I love Nielsen's music, but his music is anything but 'easy'. It requires a subtle shift in listening, because the way he constructs his music and what the music projects onto the listener is unique and left-of-center. Not a composer that one gets right away or, at least, understands immediately, but as with anything, there are exceptions of course.
"You cannot set art off in a corner and hope for it to have vitality, reality, and substance." ― Charles Ives

Symphonic Addict

Quote from: Mirror Image on Today at 07:47:02 AMI feel the same way when someone says that don't get Schoenberg. ;) But in all seriousness, Nielsen isn't as accessible as you want to believe he is and this notion is something that has crossed my own mind several times. Don't get me wrong, I love Nielsen's music, but his music is anything but 'easy'. It requires a subtle shift in listening, because the way he constructs his music and what the music projects onto the listener is unique and left-of-center. Not a composer that one gets right away or, at least, understands immediately, but as with anything, there are exceptions of course.

I can be biased because Nielsen is one of my all-time favorite composers, but when compared to, say, the example you gave, Schoenberg, there's a huge difference in approach on part of a more general public. It also depends on which composers you have been exposed to before. Of course, Nielsen's music is much more than primarily tonal and tuneful, and this is not a generalisation, but those elements can catch the attention and hook a wider group of listeners.

In my personal experience, Nielsen's music has a very attractive element in which he creates conflict or tension and then resolves it in a very satisfying way that makes sense and lifts the spirits.
Part of the tragedy of the Palestinians is that they have essentially no international support for a good reason: they've no wealth, they've no power, so they've no rights.

Noam Chomsky

Karl Henning

There is often a quirky humor in his music which I find endearing. Water long under the bridge now, but I took a while to warm to the symphonies. But my first exposure to them was at a time when my ears were after something very different. 
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

DavidW

Even though Nielsen has a unique voice, the use of progressive tonality is not unique to him.  There is a line that extends from Mahler through Simpson.  If you can listen to and enjoy Mahler, Brian, or Simpson, Nielsen shouldn't be a challenge.  For those whose experience is rooted in either neoromanticism or atonal music, I suppose I could see you finding Nielsen's music alien.

Mirror Image

Quote from: Symphonic Addict on Today at 10:31:22 AMI can be biased because Nielsen is one of my all-time favorite composers, but when compared to, say, the example you gave, Schoenberg, there's a huge difference in approach on part of a more general public. It also depends on which composers you have been exposed to before. Of course, Nielsen's music is much more than primarily tonal and tuneful, and this is not a generalisation, but those elements can catch the attention and hook a wider group of listeners.

In my personal experience, Nielsen's music has a very attractive element in which he creates conflict or tension and then resolves it in a very satisfying way that makes sense and lifts the spirits.

You see my problem really lies with the general public, because they're the reason why I can't go hear Webern's Symphony, Op. 21, but I don't really see Nielsen on any programs either. It seems that countries like Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Czech Republic et. al. haven't had much exposure to Nordic music. I remember when Simon Rattle brought Sibelius to the Berliners, which I don't believe this orchestra has performed his music with regularity since Karajan's days (I could have my history wrong on this of course). In the US, I can't hear Ives or David Diamond with any regularity, so there's that, too. I guess this is my roundabout way of saying that Nielsen's music has fared better on record than in the concert hall, but this could be said of so many other composers.
"You cannot set art off in a corner and hope for it to have vitality, reality, and substance." ― Charles Ives