Carl Nielsen Symphonies. Danish National Symphony Orchestra / Fabio Luisi. © 2023 Deutsche Grammophon

CD Spotlight

All Praise

Nielsen symphonies, enthusiastically recommended by GERALD FENECH

'Maybe the best set ever of Nielsen's symphonic cycle in immaculate sound quality and sumptuous presentation.'


This superb disc is part of a three-disc boxed set dedicated to Carl Nielsen's symphonies. To say that Nielsen's music is under recorded is an understatement. Indeed, there are many complete cycles of these iconic works, but this latest venture must surely be at the forefront of the lot. The Italian conductor Fabio Luisi has been captivated by the music of Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) ever since he took over his position as conductor of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra in 2016.

After five years of acclaimed live performances of Nielsen's symphonies in Europe, USA, Japan and China, the winning combination of Luisi, his Danish orchestra and Nielsen is now available on record for the first time.

Listen — Nielsen: Allegro collerico (Symphony No 2)
(DGG 4863481 track 1, 0:00-0:56) ℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon :

All praise to the legendary record label Deutsche Grammophon for striking an agreement with the artists concerned to release their first complete recording cycle of Nielsen's six symphonies, which first made their bow in April 2022. More good news. When the release of the three individual albums is complete, a special box set edition of the symphonies will be released during the Carl Nielsen Festival in Copenhagen's DR Koncerthuset in the 2023 spring season.

Listen — Nielsen: Tempo giusto (Symphony No 6)
(DGG 4863481 track 5, 0:00-0:59) ℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon :

In Luisi's own words:

For me, exploring Nielsen's symphonies with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra has been almost like a love affair. The more familiar I have become with this music, the more fascinating I find it, and it seems that this approach adds an extra dimension to the orchestra's strong Nordic Nielsen tradition. Nielsen is a highly interesting, complex and deeply original composer, and I am very grateful that our new recording cycle for DG will let his music reach an even greater audience.

These two symphonies are very different from each other in both form and content, yet there is common agreement that both are extremely powerful works and among the greatest ever written.

Symphony No 2, 'The Four Temperaments' (1901-02), originated when Nielsen came across an allegorical picture in a country inn, illustrating the four temperaments of man as defined in Greco-Roman medicine: anger, apathy, melancholy and carefree abandon.

Listen — Nielsen: Allegro sanguineo (Symphony No 2)
(DGG 4863481 track 4, 0:00-0:52) ℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon :

Twenty-three years later, the composer completed his sixth and final symphony, giving it the subtitle Sinfonia Semplice, a work full of tragic overtones and complex emotions that recall the tenth by Mahler and anticipate Shostakovich, particularly in the inventive percussion writing.

Listen — Nielsen: Humoreske (Symphony No 6)
(DGG 4863481 track 6, 3:09-4:07) ℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon :

Allow me to quote what the San Francisco Chronicle had to say on Luisi's performances after a concert of Nielsen works in 2017, which, in my opinion, says it all.

The performances make a powerful case for both the orchestra itself and for Nielsen's music. The orchestra members seemed to have Nielsen's distinctively pointed language in their veins, and Fabio Luisi spurred the ensemble to extravagant shows of passion.

Maybe the best set ever of Nielsen's symphonic cycle in immaculate sound quality and sumptuous presentation. Enthusiastically recommended.

Copyright © 21 April 2023 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta



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