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Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Symphony no. 1
Symphony no. 6 'Sinfonia Semplice'

Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Michael Schønwandt
Rec March-July 2000, Danish Radio Concert Hall
DACAPO 8.224169 (68.34)
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These are eminently satisfying performances, perhaps the best so far in the progressing Nielsen series from these artists. The First Symphony is a wonderfully invigorating piece, tightly constructed with a compelling sweep of symphonic momentum, and Schønwandt has its measure. The fluency of the music communicates in every bar, and while the violin tone is not always as full as it might be (the orchestra or the recording?), there is some excellent playing, including distinguished wind solos.

The outer movements are taken with sane tempi that allow the phrasing to breathe; a headlong rush in this music loses more than it gains. Perhaps the nobility of the climactic passages in the slow movement is more nobly conceived in Herbert Blomstedt's San Francisco performance (Decca), but it would be unfair to say that Schønwandt fails here, he is simply less intense.

The Sixth Symphony receives a performance that is most convincing. This problematic piece needs to be carefully rehearsed, and full marks to the artists whose preparation was clearly impeccable. In the third movement _ 'Proposta Seria', there is a magnificent intensity, and the other movements too achieve a rare balance of relative tempi, unifying the whole. The recorded sound plays its part too, in making the performance of this extraordinary symphony so compelling. This is some of Nielsen's strangest and most compelling music, and the relatively relaxed tempi allows for plenty of detail to be heard.

Terry Barfoot

See also review by Christopher Thomas

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