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Nielsen: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 6 Hybrid SACD - DSD, Live

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The second release in Sir Colin Davis acclaimed Nielsen cycle with the London Symphony Orchestra features the first and sixth symphonies. The debut recording of symphonies four and five was an Editor s Choice in Gramophone and Orchestral Choice of the Month in BBC Music Magazine. Nielsen s First Symphony draws inspiration from Brahms and Dvorak but also contains hints of the progressive tonality for which he was later celebrated. His enigmatic sixth and final symphony, entitled Sinfonia Semplice (Simple Symphony), turns out to be anything but this. Though written thirty years apart,
both works feature folk-inflections, tonal ambiguity and Nielsen s distinctive anti-Romantic style.


CD of the Week: ''Davis and the LSO triumph in this recording... In this gripping performance, [Symphony No 6] emerges as one of the 20th century's most beguilingly original works.'' --The Sunday Times (UK)

''This second CD lives up to the high standard set by its predecessor.'' --Financial Times
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Sir Colin Davis
  • Composer: Carl Nielsen
  • Audio CD (February 14, 2012)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Hybrid SACD - DSD, Live
  • Label: LSO Live
  • ASIN: B006M51FNI
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #456,307 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Santa Fe Listener HALL OF FAME on March 1, 2012
Format: Audio CD
This is a case of lightning not striking twice. The octogenarian Davis delivered a surprise with his first Nielsen recording on LSO Live, a pairing of the Fourth and Fifth Symphonies that was superb on every account but most especially in the vigor and thrust of the conducting. That the LSO played so well was a bonus. Here the pairing is of two problem symphonies that seem a bit beyond Davis's reach. He is moderate and conventional throughout, despite some standout moments, and one has a suspicion that the label's urge to have a complete Nielsen cycle was the overriding reason for this installment.

The problems are diametrically different between the First and Sixth. The former contains only hints of the unique voice Nielsen came to develop. the outer movements are the most cautious and tentative. The best music comes in the slow movement, with its lulling barcarolle sway and light passing melodies. It would take special conviction to make the score sound better than it is, and Davis supplies only a certain grace and poise - nice things, no doubt - without finding a key to the work.

The Sixth, being Nielsen's last symphony, distills many strange, quirky, even disturbing notions of what belongs in a symphony - its alternation of whimsy and ferocity is peculiar, hinting at personal meanings not quite revealed (which was also true of the Fifth, which feels like a wartime portrayal of brutality in the trenches of WW I, despite the composer's insistence that no such reference was intended). Each movement of the Sinfonia Semplice is far from simple - was the subtitle ironic?
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Format: Audio CD
Wow! What an incredibly sensitive look into Nielsen's masterful "Sinfonia Semplice" (6th symphony). In contrast to what the title might suggest, Nielsen's sixth and last symphony is an amazingly complex look at life and the coming onslaught of modern music. In fact, the second movement is a tounge-in-cheek parody of modern musical trends. The symphony ends humorously enough alright (tuba and contra-bassoon farting away in their lowest registers), but it spans the entire gambit of human moods and emotions along the way. You could almost think of it as Kierkegaard in musical form. It encapsulates that great Scandinavian talent for contemplation and introspective thinking. Yet, Davis captures the perfect tempo for the totally unexpected 'clog dance' that suddenly appears in the finale. I love this work, and I guess it should come as no great surprise that such a dedicated conductor of Sibelius' works should also become a fine conductor of Nielsen - the other truly great 20th century composer from up north. The sound quality strikes me as better than usual from this particular source (LSO Live from London's acoustically challenged Barbican hall).

I would love to comment on Davis' performance of Nielsen's first symphony, but I have a terrible confession to make: I just don't like the piece. Therefore, I just don't have the knowledge to make a fair comparison. As a performance, it certainly sounds plenty good. But for me, Nielsen made huge improvements over his first three symphonies. His third, fourth and fifth symphonies are as profound and artful as any you'll hear, anyplace. The sixth is a great 'autumnal' work. But again, Nielsen's first symphony just doesn't stand comparison to Sibelius' first (however, I'm not so sure that Sibelius always improved his craft). Regardless, if you're not already familiar with it, get this for the incredible "Sinfonia Semplice".
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Format: Audio CD
As the music of Carl Nielsen gradually spreads to the rest of the world, and more and more foreign conductors take up the challenge of interpreting his symphonies, it must in the nature of things be the particular duty of his compatriots - of whom I am one - to sample and weigh such endeavours, weaned on these national edifices as one is. As expressed in my earlier review of the first disc of symphonies, the now octogenarian Sir Colin Davis certainly digs into Nielsen con gusto, hitting the all-embracing fifth very close to the mark while I still find the fourth to be precipitate and lacking in concentration and detail.

The coupling of the symphonies Nos. 1 and 6 is a popular but fiendishly difficult one, as the works are all but diametrically opposite in nature. The first, begun when the composer was only 25, is a real barnstormer, fearless and impetuous as only youth can be, and much more so than the early works by Sibelius, an exact contemporary to whom Nielsen is often compared. No doubt Nielsen took much of his inspiration from Brahms, whose fourth symphony (of 1885) he greatly admired, but there the common ground sort of ends. Unfortunately Davis' grasp - of the orchestra undisputedly second to none - doesn't quite extend to the post-adolescent excesses of the great Dane. Though the music is very well played it comes over as way too ponderous and marinated in a late-romantic "Weltschmerz" entirely alien to pre-WWI Nielsen. When taking in this recording of the G minor symphony I couldn't help wondering if Sir Colin had perhaps Mahler's first - or Rachmaninov's second even - in slightly too fresh a memory; and that is not suitable company for the care-free Nielsen.
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