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Introducing Carl Nielsen's Symphonies

Feat. the Master himself

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Carl Nielsen is without question Denmark's most famous composer but until recently he wasn't quite so celebrated outside of his homeland.

Happily that's now changing both on the concert platform and in the recording studio, helped no doubt in part by the fact that 2015 was the 150th anniversary of his birth (1865). As for why it's taken the musical world such a long time to wake up to a nationally celebrated composer who died back in 1931, conversely it may be the same answer as to why his music is also so special and so worthy of our attention, namely its sheer quirkiness. As you listen to his six symphonies here you're going to quickly spot that they don't fit neatly into any stylistic box, and so you kind of have to relax into that from the off; expect to be thrown regular harmonic, melodic and special effect curveballs, and if sometimes you're feeling thoroughly tossed around then that's fine, it's only what generations of conductors have also felt! In fact to give you an idea of the personality behind these works you might want to do an internet search for a series of photographs taken of Nielsen as a boy which show him on the one hand in typically Victorian tweed suit, but on the other hand pulling a succession of crazy, thoroughly un-Victorian faces. Clearly his parents had opted to allow him to get on with being himself, which is exactly what he did musically his whole life.

Curation: Charlotte Gardner

Speaker: Charlotte Gardner

Visual Art: Philipp Nicolai Hertel

  • Introducing Carl Nielsen's Symphonies

  • An introduction to Nielsen — Symphony No. 1 in g minor op. 7 FS 16

  • Symphony No. 1 in g minor op. 7 FS 16 Preview Only

    Carl Nielsen

    Sir Colin Davis, London Symphony Orchestra2011
  • An introduction to Nielsen — Symphony No. 2 op. 16 FS 29 »The Four Temperaments«

  • Symphony No. 2 op. 16 FS 29 »The Four Temperaments« Preview Only

    Carl Nielsen

    Sir Colin Davis, London Symphony Orchestra2011
  • An introduction to Nielsen — Symphony No. 3 op. 27 FS 60 »Sinfonia espansiva«

  • Symphony No. 3 op. 27 FS 60 »Sinfonia espansiva« Preview Only

    Carl Nielsen

    Sir Colin Davis, London Symphony Orchestra, Lucy Hall, Marcus Farnsworth2011
  • An introduction to Nielsen — Symphony No. 4 op. 29 FS 76 »The Inextinguishable«

  • Symphony No. 4 op. 29 FS 76 »The Inextinguishable« Preview Only

    Carl Nielsen

    Sir Colin Davis, London Symphony Orchestra2010
  • An introduction to Nielsen — Symphony No. 5 op. 50 FS 97

  • Symphony No. 5 op. 50 FS 97 Preview Only

    Carl Nielsen

    Sir Colin Davis, London Symphony Orchestra2009
  • An introduction to Nielsen — Symphony No. 6 FS 116 »Sinfonia semplice«

  • Symphony No. 6 FS 116 »Sinfonia semplice« Preview Only

    Carl Nielsen

    Sir Colin Davis, London Symphony Orchestra2011

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Movements