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Orchestral Works Volume 2

Symphony no 3 (Sinfonia Espansiva) op 27
Silken Shoe on golden last (tenor & orchestra)
Lower your head, O flower (soprano & orchestra)
Overture Helios op 17
Paraphrase on Nearer my God to thee

Eva Hess-Thayson (soprano) and Jan Lund (tenor)
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Douglas Bostock
Recorded in Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, January 2000
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Douglas Bostock's growing reputation as a conductor is fully underlined by this glowing performance of the Sinfonia Espansiva. He sustains the urgent, throbbing pulse of the first movement, handles the characteristically quirky third movement with great finesse and imbues the finale with the requisite degree of warmth and muscularity. The disc also contains two performances of the second movement - the version invariably heard with wordless solos for soprano and tenor, and what is claimed to be the first ever recording of Nielsen's alternative version in which the singers are replaced by clarinet and trombone. An interesting comparison - but I found the vocal version to be much more atmospheric than the instrumental version. (This is placed after the finale: incidentally, its timing is incorrectly given as 1:19 instead of 9:16)

Bostock also delivers a wonderfully paced and shaped account of Helios, Nielsen's distinctive portrait of a high summer's day in Athens. His magisterial grasp of the musical argument is crowned by closing bars of exquisite repose. The two brief songs make agreeable 'fillers', but I'm less impressed by the Nearer My God to thee paraphrase, a short piece occasioned by the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. The hymn was reputedly the last piece to be played by the band as the ship sank. The paraphrase was not performed until 1915, after which the parts were lost. What we hear is a reconstruction by Knud Ketting from the composer's short score. Nielsen is said to have become ashamed of this piece - and it's not difficult to see why: it is rather crudely programmatic and of little substance.

But no Nielsen devotee should miss these accounts of the symphony and Helios which are superbly played and recorded.

Adrian Smith

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