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Record Box

A maverick streak

Nielsen at his best,

Naxos    8.554189

Nielsen: Concertos (Complete) (c) 2000 HNH International Ltd.


Somehow I wasted years in not familiarising myself with the music of Nielsen, and when I did irritation with myself for the delay set in. This CD covers a wide span, from the violin concerto in 1911, flute concerto in 1926, and clarinet concerto in 1928. Nielsen had a multiplicity of ideas, which one would expect of any composer worthy of the name. Despite that, in listening I invariably feel that his thematic ideas shine with an extra gloss, whereas many composers spin their music out of a mere splinter.

Nielsen's Violin Concerto fits the showy style of the 19th century without the paucity of invention that so easily threatens a blend of music and pyrotechnics. It is fascinating to discover that Nielsen composed it in the cabin near Bergen first used by Grieg. The idyllic setting probably gave both composers motivation for their music.

Written for a friend, Aage Oxenvade, Nielsen's clarinet concerto has qualities suggested by the clarinet's dual ability for romantic lingerings and extremes of hypnotic chatter. Nielsen trapped and partnered these characteristics in a multi-sectioned work exhuding a powerful charisma. I still regard this work amongst the best of Nielsen.

The flute concerto has its own qualities of lyricism plus an assertive trombone clowning when least expected, which is a rough-and-tumble gesture in total contrast to the soloist's brilliant flight. I don't know another flute concerto quite so welcoming as this. There's a maverick streak lurking in the background.

These performances are exceptionally lively, and true to the spirit of Nielsen as I understand it. A budget label treat for us all.


Copyright © 10 January 2001 Basil Ramsey, Eastwood, Essex, UK







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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular Wednesday series of shorter CD reviews