Carl Nielsen (1865-1931)

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201901Lessons In Life20190708

Donald Macleod explores Carl Nielsen’s world view through his music. Today - the Helios Overture and part of his second symphony.

You’ll find a clue as to Carl Nielsen’s character in any number of photographs that show him smiling; they include snaps of him taken as a young man in which he’s cheekily pulling funny faces for the camera. They’re far removed from the formal portraiture one might expect of Denmark’s foremost composer. As well as a good sense of humour, these unselfconscious poses reveal an open, inquisitive fascination with the world around him. Looking back at his life in 1925, at the age of 60, Nielsen recognised this trait in himself. “From my childhood”, he wrote, “I have been full of an oddly intense curiosity which has made me see something interesting in every human creature.” His talent for observation acted as a powerful stimulus to Nielsen’s musical mind.

Across the week Donald explores how the world around him fed into Nielsen’s music. Excerpts from five of his symphonies reveal some of his most profound thinking on life, while his major choral works Hymnus Amoris and Springtime in Funen - which directly relate to his rural childhood - show a more personal side of his character. Ever the keen observer, there’s comedy and drama and even a musical portrait of chickens to be found in his operas.

Life and motion stimulated Nielsen's musical imagination in a variety of contrasting ways. Today Donald explores some of those avenues and the music these experiences stimulated.

Maskarade: Overture
Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Thomas Dausgaard, conductor

Violin concerto, Op.33 (Rondo: Allegretto scherzando)
Dong-Suk Kang, violin
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Myung-Whun Chung, conductor

Frihed er det bedste guld
Ars Nova Copenhagen
Michael Bojesen, conductor

Helios Overture
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Järvi, conductor

Afflictus Sum (3 Motets)
Canzone Choir
Frans Rasmussen, director

Donald Macleod explores Carl Nielsen's Second Symphony and the Helios Overture.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201902The Sound Of Life20190709

Donald Macleod explores how Carl Nielsen’s childhood fired his musical imagination in his choral work, Springtime in Funen.

You’ll find a clue as to Carl Nielsen’s character in any number of photographs that show him smiling; they include snaps of him taken as a young man in which he’s cheekily pulling funny faces for the camera. They’re far removed from the formal portraiture one might expect of Denmark’s foremost composer. As well as a good sense of humour, these unselfconscious poses reveal an open, inquisitive fascination with the world around him. Looking back at his life in 1925, at the age of 60, Nielsen recognised this trait in himself. “From my childhood”, he wrote, “I have been full of an oddly intense curiosity which has made me see something interesting in every human creature.” His talent for observation acted as a powerful stimulus to Nielsen’s musical mind.

Across the week Donald explores how the world around him fed into Nielsen’s music. Excerpts from five of his symphonies reveal some of his most profound thinking on life, while his major choral works Hymnus Amoris and Springtime in Funen - which directly relate to his rural childhood - show a more personal side of his character. Ever the keen observer, there’s comedy and drama and even a musical portrait of chickens to be found in his operas.

In the second part of his survey Donald dips into Nielsen’s autobiography. While not shying away from the genuine hardship the family endured, it conjures up a warm-hearted, vivid evocation of his childhood years spent on the island of Funen, which in turn he was able to depict musically.

The Cockerel’s Dance (Maskarade)
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Järvi, conductor

Se dig ud en sommerdag
Ars Nova Copenhagen
Michael Bojesen, conductor

Chaconne, Op.32
Martin Roscoe, piano

Symphony no.3 (1: Allegro espansivo)
Frankfurt Radio Symphony
Paavo Järvi, conductor

String Quintet in G major (3: Allegretto scherzando)
The Young Danish String Quartet
Tim Frederiksen, viola

Springtime in Funen, Op.42
Asa Baverstam, soprano
Linnéa Ekdahl, soprano
Kjel Magnus Sandve, tenor
Per Hyoer, baritone
Andréas Thors, boy soprano
Stockholm Boys' Choir
Swedish Radio Choir and Symphony Orchestra
Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

Donald Macleod explores how Carl Nielsen's childhood fired his musical imagination.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201903Art Is Human20190710

Donald Macleod measures the significance of Carl Nielsen’s partnership with his sculptor wife, Anne-Marie Brodersen.

You’ll find a clue as to Carl Nielsen’s character in any number of photographs that show him smiling; they include snaps of him taken as a young man in which he’s cheekily pulling funny faces for the camera. They’re far removed from the formal portraiture one might expect of Denmark’s foremost composer. As well as a good sense of humour, these unselfconscious poses reveal an open, inquisitive fascination with the world around him. Looking back at his life in 1925, at the age of 60, Nielsen recognised this trait in himself. “From my childhood”, he wrote, “I have been full of an oddly intense curiosity which has made me see something interesting in every human creature.” His talent for observation acted as a powerful stimulus to Nielsen’s musical mind.

Across the week Donald explores how the world around him fed into Nielsen’s music. Excerpts from five of his symphonies reveal some of his most profound thinking on life, while his major choral works Hymnus Amoris and Springtime in Funen - which directly relate to his rural childhood - show a more personal side of his character. Ever the keen observer, there’s comedy and drama and even a musical portrait of chickens to be found in his operas.

Nielsen’s family was central to his life as an artist. Meeting Anne-Marie Brodersen and marrying her soon afterwards began a remarkable and enduring association in which Nielsen would find support creatively and personally until his death in 1931.

Five Piano Pieces Op. 3 (Humoresque: Allegretto giocoso)
Martin Roscoe, piano

Little Suite for Strings (Intermezzo)
New Stockholm Chamber Orchestra
Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

6 Songs, Op 10
No.1 Aebleblomst
Inger Dam-Jensen, soprano
Ulrich Staerk, piano
No. 2 Erindringens
No. 4 Sang bag ploven
Morten Ernst Lassen, baritone
Ulrich Staerk, piano

Symphony No.1 (Allegro orgoglioso)
San Francisco Symphony
Herbert Blomstedt, conductor

Hymnus Amoris
Barbara Bonney, soprano
John Mark Ainsley, tenor
Lars Pedersen, tenor
Michael W. Hansen, baritone
Bo Anker Hansen, bass
The Danish National Radio Choir
Copenhagen Boys’ Choir
The Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
Ulf Schirmer, conductor

Benedictus Dominus (3 Motets)
Canzone Choir
Frans Rasmussen, director

Donald Macleod looks at Carl Nielsen's partnership with his sculptor wife.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201904Confrontation And Crisis20190711

Donald Macleod considers how Nielsen’s years of crisis led him to create his Fifth Symphony.

You’ll find a clue as to Carl Nielsen’s character in any number of photographs that show him smiling; they include snaps of him taken as a young man in which he’s cheekily pulling funny faces for the camera. They’re far removed from the formal portraiture one might expect of Denmark’s foremost composer. As well as a good sense of humour, these unselfconscious poses reveal an open, inquisitive fascination with the world around him. Looking back at his life in 1925, at the age of 60, Nielsen recognised this trait in himself. “From my childhood”, he wrote, “I have been full of an oddly intense curiosity which has made me see something interesting in every human creature.” His talent for observation acted as a powerful stimulus to Nielsen’s musical mind.

Across the week Donald explores how the world around him fed into Nielsen’s music. Excerpts from five of his symphonies reveal some of his most profound thinking on life, while his major choral works Hymnus Amoris and Springtime in Funen - which directly relate to his rural childhood - show a more personal side of his character. Ever the keen observer, there’s comedy and drama and even a musical portrait of chickens to be found in his operas.

The years surrounding the First World War were difficult personally and creatively for Nielsen. Coming out of this troubling period, deeply affected by the conflict, his Fifth Symphony depicts a struggle between good and evil.

Jens Vejmand (excerpt)
Grammophon Orchestere Copenhagen
Carl Nielsen Jazz Trio
Zenobia
Halfdanskerne
Copenhagen University Choir Lille Muko
Jesper Grove Jørgensen, conductor

Suite, Op 45 for piano (Allegretto un pochettino)
Martin Roscoe, piano

Saga-Dream
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Järvi, conductor

Saul and David (excerpt Act 4)
Jørgen Klint, bass, Abner
Aage Haughland, bass, Saul
Kurt Westi, tenor, Jonathan
The Danish National Radio Choir & Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Järvi, conductor

String Quartet in F major, Op.44 (1: Allegro non tanto e comodo)
The Young Danish String Quartet

Symphony no 5 (Allegro – Presto – Andante poco tranquillo – Allegro (tempo 1))
London Symphony Orchestra
Colin Davis, conductor

Donald Macleod considers Nielsen's Fifth Symphony, a creative response to crisis.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201905Music Is Life20190712

Donald Macleod surveys Nielsen’s post war years including his Wind Quintet and Fourth Symphony.

You’ll find a clue as to Carl Nielsen’s character in any number of photographs that show him smiling; they include snaps of him taken as a young man in which he’s cheekily pulling funny faces for the camera. They’re far removed from the formal portraiture one might expect of Denmark’s foremost composer. As well as a good sense of humour, these unselfconscious poses reveal an open, inquisitive fascination with the world around him. Looking back at his life in 1925, at the age of 60, Nielsen recognised this trait in himself. “From my childhood”, he wrote, “I have been full of an oddly intense curiosity which has made me see something interesting in every human creature.” His talent for observation acted as a powerful stimulus to Nielsen’s musical mind.

Across the week Donald explores how the world around him fed into Nielsen’s music. Excerpts from five of his symphonies reveal some of his most profound thinking on life, while his major choral works Hymnus Amoris and Springtime in Funen - which directly relate to his rural childhood - show a more personal side of his character. Ever the keen observer, there’s comedy and drama and even a musical portrait of chickens to be found in his operas.

From 1920 onwards the growing popularity of Nielsen’s music abroad presented him with opportunities to travel, including a rather eventful trip to London.

Graeshoppen
Canzone Choir
Frans Rasmussen, director

Wind Quintet: (1: Allegro ben moderato)
Wind Quintet of the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra

Pan og Syrinx, Op.49
Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Thomas Dausgaard, conductor

Sonata for violin and piano no 2, Op.35 (2: molto adagio)
Jon Gjesme, violin
Jens Elvekjaer, piano

Maskarade (excerpt from Act 2)
Henriette Bonde-Hansen, soprano, Leonora
Gert-Henning Jensen, tenor, Leander
Marianne Rørholm, mezzo soprano, Pernille
Bo Skovhus, baritone, Henrik
The Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
Ulf Schirmer, conductor

Symphony No.4 (1: Allegro)
San Francisco Symphony
Herbert Blomstedt, conductor

Donald Macleod surveys Nielsen's post-war years including his Wind Quintet.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.