Carl Nielsen: The Mother. © 2020 Dacapo Records

CD Spotlight

A Sort of a Mystery

Carl Nielsen's incidental music for the play 'The Mother', recommended by GERALD FENECH

'... an interpretation of the utmost precision, with tempi and dynamics handled with vibrant, life-affirming gusto.'


Regarded as Denmark's national composer, Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) has always commanded an international audience of the highest order for his music; a testament this, to the explosive imagination and fertile imagery of his compositions. His output is not that substantial but his symphonies and concertos, together with his operatic masterpiece Saul and David, are often performed, especially in his native country. In spite of his popularity as a composer of symphonies, Nielsen is still crying out to be discovered as a man of the theatre, and this premiere recording is now giving us the chance to appreciate this hidden aspect of his art. One of Nielsen's best-loved works is The Mist is Rising for flute, but few people know that this piece originated from the play The Mother by Helge Rode.

Listen — Nielsen: The Mist is Rising (The Mother)
(track 4, 0:00-0:55) © 2020 Dacapo Records :

Still, what The Mother actually is remains a sort of a mystery. Maybe the main reason for this is that the score for the piece first appeared in print in 2007, and this incidental music has never been recorded in its entirety until now. This issue places the music in its right context for the first time, thus providing the listener with a new picture of Nielsen as a composer for the theatre. The Mother was intended as part of the celebrations commemorating Denmark's reunification with Southern Jutland in 1920, but the premiere had to wait until 30 January 1921. This was due mainly to Nielsen's hesitancy on what to include as part of the music. Indeed, the premiere had to be postponed several times before The Mother saw the light of day, but when it did, it was a huge success.

Listen — Nielsen: Prelude to Scene Seven (The Mother)
(track 24, 0:00-0:59) © 2020 Dacapo Records :

Reviewers had special praise for Nielsen's contribution, and one of them had this to say: 'In form and content we find, once again, his best, most characteristic, individual qualities as a composer, his extraordinary and captivating mixture of that which is immediately accessible and popular and that which is strongly artistic and concentrated, the fresh straightforwardness and groundedness on one hand, juxtaposed with the contrapuntal dialect that informs the teeming life of his music.' I think this comment says it all.

Due to space constraints, I cannot delve into the political goings-on that preceded the composition or the story of the play, but do read Jens Cornelius' exceptionally informative essay before you listen to the music. I found it extremely helpful in my appreciation of this rare but riveting score which has been hidden for nearly a century. Andreas Delfs marshalls his forces with aplomb, and his advocacy for the piece is all too evident in an interpretation of the utmost precision, with tempi and dynamics handled with vibrant, life-affirming gusto.

Listen — Nielsen: There's a Fleet of Floating Islands (The Mother)
(track 26, 4:33-5:33) © 2020 Dacapo Records :

Sound and presentation are first-rate. Just buy it, you won't be sorry.

Copyright © 22 August 2020 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta








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