Nielsen: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 5 Hybrid SACD - DSD
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There are many competent readings of the Nielsen Fourth and Fifth symphonies in good sound, some lacking (and in some cases, purposely eschewing) the intensity and daring of the great interpretations of the past.
But there are high standards---benchmarks---that must be matched or exceeded in order for performances of these works to rise to the status of important and revelatory; standards for identifiable character and lasting impression, standards for swagger, intensity, drama, expressiveness, and the extra outrageousness and fire found in the very best Nielsen. These standards are set by the likes of Ole Schmidt's Fifth with the London Symphony Orchestra, the 1969 Jascha Horenstein with the New Philharmonia (which is never made it to CD), the 1990s renditions of Bryden Thomson on both the Fourth and Fifth (with the same Royal Stockholm Philharmonic that Oramo leads on this disc), and Rafael Kubelik with the Danish Radio Symphony from 1983. Michael Schonwandt's warmer, more centrist Nielsen cycle (a set that includes an outstanding Fifth), with the Danish National Symphony, also offer enough of these qualities to be impressive.
Sakari Oramo's readings here are, as another reviewer put it, "assured", quite clean and well played, but for me, they do not scale the heights of the benchmarks mentioned above. Tempos are well chosen, perhaps a shade quick on certain passages on the Fourth. The side drumming in the Fifth is good but not overwhelming in power (as the Schmidt, Horentein and Kubelik recordings are). Oramo is most similar to Schonwandt in terms of the polished, intelligent, even-tempered overall interpretation, a notch short of Schonwandt on the Fifth, but competitive in the pack that includes Elder, Colin Davis, Chung, Kuchar, Blomstedt, Neeme Jarvi, Leaper, Berglund.
Bottom line: another competent version in good sound, another competitor that does not supplant the legends, but worth hearing.
Nielsen is a hard composer to get. Performers can sometimes be divided into those who hear him as a Romantic and those who hear him as a modernist. As a noted Danish composer we perhaps expect (and some performers seems to want to give us) another Sibelius but that is a bit like expecting British and French music to sound the same. Nielsen's music is not elemental and timeless; it is more homely and of its (admittedly often troubled) time. So how should Nielsen sound?
Oramo's Nielsen is rather uncomfortable and Oramo is very much in the "Nielsen is a modernist" camp. He maintains pulse and flow - essentials in Nielsen - and I know of no Fourth with such overall integrity - while at the same time keeping the music unsettled. At the same time, and between his perturbed big movements, he gives us a very beautiful and relaxed - almost still - slow movement with some lovely flute playing. We get a really compelling 4 - as compelling as any since Martinon's fiery account - that is astonishingly full of incident and character.
Nielsen 5 has done better than 4 on record and is easier to bring off.Read more ›
Nielsen opens the symphony with a rather fiery, agitated Allegro, which Maestro Oramo handles well enough. It doesn't quite develop the kind of intensity I'd like, but the conductor does play up the differences in tempo nicely as the music swells, ebbs, and flows. Still, a little more tumult might have helped to establish the context of the conflicts.
The second movement Poco Allegretto, which flows uninterrupted from the first movement, is a kind of tribute to peaceful, bucolic simplicity, the sort of quiet and tranquility Nature ultimately seeks. Here, Oramo well captures the mood and paints an appropriately sweet picture in leisurely style.
The third and fourth movements return us to high drama, and it's here that I think I prefer Herbert Blomstedt (Decca) over Oramo.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
On first listening I didn't like this disc, which I attribute to the fact that the sound--on the CD layer--seems a little dry, rough, and lacking in depth and atmosphere. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Long-Time Listener
This SACD hybrid recording was made in 2012-13 and commences a much larger series of recordings featuring this orchestra under Oramo and comprising the complete set of six Nielsen... Read morePublished 8 months ago by I. Giles
Nielson's 5th symphony has often been thought of as a war symphony. The power and terror in the first movement is captured like never before. Read morePublished 11 months ago by harry s. white