Author Topic: Nielsen's Orchestral Works (Non-Symphony) by Dausgaard, Danish National SO  (Read 6737 times)

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Offline Scott

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Nielsen is, of course, primarily known to non-Danes as the composer of six marvelous symphonies, and there is no dearth of recordings of the whole set of them. But there aren't all that many recordings of his non-symphonic orchestral music except for perhaps the two most popular of them -- the overture to his comic opera Maskarade and the evocative Helios Overture. Those two works anchor this CD: the Maskarade Overture begins the disc, and Helios closes it. One is rarely likely to hear such ebullient high spirits in the Maskarade Overture. Thomas Dausgaard, who has to be considered one of the hottest conductors around these days, gets his Danish National Symphony Orchestra to play it like the exuberant pièce d'esprit that it is. And it is followed by the equally exciting Cockerel's Dance from the same opera. As for the Helios Overture, I have always thought it one of Nielsen's greatest inspirations, describing musically as it does the sun's course through the heavens from dawn to dusk. Did you know that early afternoon is ushered in by an exciting fugue?

But it the musical contents in between Maskarade and Helios that makes this disc all the more special. There is the prelude to Sir Olaf He Rides, from incidental music to Drachmann's play, a genre which engaged much of Nielsen's efforts during the years that he was associated with the Royal Danish Theater first as violinist and later as music director. The piece evokes the Fairyland of the play with grace and craft.

Following this is a suite taken from Nielsen's very early (1893, rev. 1899) suite Snefrid, again incidental music for a theatrical production. It includes a jaunty prelude, a yearning andante, another depicting sleep (or perhaps dreams), a funeral march and a postlude. The prelude to Act II of Nielsen's opera Saul and David is full of conflict and dissonance -- it precedes the scene where David plays for Saul and a messenger brings news of the depredations of the giant, Goliath. Dausgaard's talent for maintaining great beauty while limning tension is in evidence here.

The worthy but rarely heard ten-minute Rhapsodic Overture: An Imaginary Journey to the Faroe Islands was written near the end of Nielsen's life, after he'd finished his sixth and last symphony and in his most advanced idiom. In three sections, it paints a tone picture of a sea voyage to the isolated Faroes, a Danish possession, in the North Atlantic. It includes a quiet passage, not without its apprehensions, in which the ship sets off. One hears seabirds, the majestic roll of ocean waves that become more and more turbulent, the rising winds and a terrifying storm. There is a welcome admixture of brash and naïve folksong along the way; perhaps the sailor's singing to calm their fears? Arrival in the Islands is greeted with both pride in the crew's accomplishment and relief at reaching a safe haven. This is a startlingly effective piece of tone painting.

The Prelude to Act III of Willemoes, a play about a Danish naval hero, is a quiet interlude describing the protagonist's love for a young girl. Pan and Syrinx (1917-18) occasionally figures on concert programs outside Denmark. It depicts Pan's attraction for the nymph Syrinx, a story in Ovid's Metamorphosis, and the music is one of the first by Nielsen to use a large percussion section (later to figure so strongly in such works as the Clarinet and Flute Concertos), surely influenced to some extent by Stravinsky's ballet scores, although used in a style all Nielsen's own. There are also echoes of Debussyan impressionism here. One particularly striking instrumental effect is toward the end of the piece where high strings play what amounts to tone clusters during which they gradually eliminate any vibrato.

The next to last selection (just before Helios) is Nielsen's last orchestral work, the 1930 overture Cupid and the Poet written to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Hans Christian Andersen's birth. A light-hearted work, it is nonetheless in Nielsen's spiky late style. This is one of Nielsen's works I don't recall ever hearing before and I was quite taken by it.

Once again I must comment on how wonderful these performances are. They are enhanced by extremely rich and vibrant sound on both the plain stereo and SACD layers. I for one would love to have a follow-up disc in which Dausgaard and his orchestra play some of Nielsen's other non-symphonic works including such pieces as the Saga-Drom and At the Bier of a Young Artist. Oh, and also the suite from Aladdin. They have all been recorded before, but this conductor and ensemble seem to have real insights into Nielsen's sound world.

Scott Morrison
Without music, life would be a mistake. -- Nietzsche

Harry

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Thank you Scott, a fine posting to read. :)
« Last Edit: April 20, 2007, 08:16:20 AM by Harry »

Hector

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I bought this the moment it came out because it contains a lot of music that has not seen the light of day plus some familiar stuff.

Dausgaard has proved himself an outstanding conductor in the line of Jensen, Tuxen, Woldike and Frandsen in his countryman's music.

I cannot fault Nielsen, another great composer of the 20th century. It was Deryck Cooke who thought that the 5th Symphony, on a good day, could be the greatest of the century and, listening to a fine performance, you could easily believe that he was right.

His music is so immediate, so full of life and tuneful.

The disc is worth the extra outlay because of the SACD format.

More, please, Da Capo!

Offline Scott

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Thank you Steve, a fine posting to read. :)

Gosh, how did you know I've always wished my name were Steve.   ;)

Scott
Without music, life would be a mistake. -- Nietzsche

Harry

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Gosh, how did you know I've always wished my name were Steve.   ;)

Scott

Bloody.........that does not happen to often when I write!
I am heartily sorry my friend Scott!

Offline Scott

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Think nothing of it. I just couldn't resist twitting you a bit.  0:)
Without music, life would be a mistake. -- Nietzsche

Michel

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Apologies in changing the direction of this thread, but I have been looking to get a symphony cycle for a while, yet can't seem to find the answer of the most obvious..

Offline edward

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  • Hello, little man. I will destroy you.
Blomstedt on two Double Deccas would be my choice for the symphony cycle. No weak links.

After that, one can reasonably supplement with outstanding readings of particular symphonies (for me, Martinon in the 4th, Bernstein in the 5th, Thomson in the 6th).
"I don't at all mind actively disliking a piece of contemporary music, but in order to feel happy about it I must consciously understand why I dislike it. Otherwise it remains in my mind as unfinished business."
 -- Aaron Copland, The Pleasures of Music

Harry

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Apologies in changing the direction of this thread, but I have been looking to get a symphony cycle for a while, yet can't seem to find the answer of the most obvious..

Beats me what you want to say Michel. :)

Theodore Kuchar on Brilliant is a good and cheap starting point, in fact I would rate his performance very high!
Marvelous sonics, and very good interpretations.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2007, 10:08:17 AM by Harry »

Michel

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Blomstedt on two Double Deccas would be my choice for the symphony cycle. No weak links.

After that, one can reasonably supplement with outstanding readings of particular symphonies (for me, Martinon in the 4th, Bernstein in the 5th, Thomson in the 6th).

What about this one?

http://www.classicstoday.com/review.asp?ReviewNum=9647


Michel

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I am unsure of why I am canvasssing for opinions here; since I have found this set for £4.49 including postage.... :)

Harry

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I am unsure of why I am canvasssing for opinions here; since I have found this set for £4.49 including postage.... :)

Well than buy it, and be done with it! ;D

Offline Bunny

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Yes, but there are also these worthy Nielsen cycles as well:

 

Harry

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Yes, but there are also these worthy Nielsen cycles as well:

 

More expensive though! ;D

Offline Bunny

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Not from BRO where I found them. ;D

Actually, da Capo is one of the Naxos labels which are famous for being well priced. 

Offline alkan

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I have both the Ole Schmidt and Kuchar versions of the symphonies.

Harry and I disagree on this, but IMHO Schmidt's interpretations are far superior and the sound is very good too.
Highlights for me are nos 2, 3, 4 and 6.       But Bernstein 3 is tremendous and my all-time favourite for 5 is Horenstein (unavailable) due
partly to a mind-blowing side-drum performance.

Nielsen's incidental music is also well worth getting, especially the Masquerade overture, Aladdin, Helios and Symphonic
Rhapsody.         I have the Naxos version of this and it's not bad (and very cheap), although I think that better can be found.

As you might guess, Nielsen is one of my most-loved composers ......
The two most common elements in the universe are Hydrogen and stupidity.
Harlan Ellison (1934 - )

Offline edward

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  • Hello, little man. I will destroy you.
Is the Horenstein 5 the one recently reissued in BBC Legends?
"I don't at all mind actively disliking a piece of contemporary music, but in order to feel happy about it I must consciously understand why I dislike it. Otherwise it remains in my mind as unfinished business."
 -- Aaron Copland, The Pleasures of Music

Harry

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I have both the Ole Schmidt and Kuchar versions of the symphonies.

Harry and I disagree on this, but IMHO Schmidt's interpretations are far superior and the sound is very good too.
Highlights for me are nos 2, 3, 4 and 6.       But Bernstein 3 is tremendous and my all-time favourite for 5 is Horenstein (unavailable) due
partly to a mind-blowing side-drum performance.

Nielsen's incidental music is also well worth getting, especially the Masquerade overture, Aladdin, Helios and Symphonic
Rhapsody.         I have the Naxos version of this and it's not bad (and very cheap), although I think that better can be found.

As you might guess, Nielsen is one of my most-loved composers ......

I also like the Schmidt, no doubt about that, but also the BIS recordings by MWC, every performance has some beauty in it and sometimes much so, as Florestan says, so although I can recommend the Kuchar, there is no doubt in my mind, that it is not a definitive one, but merrily my recommendation. :)

Offline alkan

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but also the BIS recordings by MWC

I should know what this means, but for some reason it escapes me ....... could you please elucidate ?

Thanks     
The two most common elements in the universe are Hydrogen and stupidity.
Harlan Ellison (1934 - )