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Carl Nielsen (1865 - 1931)
Maskarade Overture, FS 39 (1906) [4.43]
Ved en Üng Kunstners Båre, FS 58 (1910) [4.22]
Helios Overture, Op 17, FS 32 (1903) [12.20]
Saga-Drøm, Op 39, FS46 (1908) [9.07]
Pan and Syrinx, Op 49 FS 87 (1918) [8.46]
Rhapsodic Overture - an Imaginary Journey to the Faeroe Islands, FS 123 (1927) [10.36]
Bohemian-Danish Folk Tune FS 130 (1928) [6.24]
Aladdin: Suite from the Incidental Music FS 89(1919) [24.16]
Members of the Jutland Opera Chorus
Vibeke Kærsgaard Lembcke (clarinet); Karl Lenaart Karlsson (english horn) (op. 39)
Aarhus Symphony Orchestra/Lance Friedel
rec. Frichsparken, Aarhus, Denmark, 1 October 2004. DDD
Notes in English, Photo of conductor.
MSR CLASSICS MS 1150 [80.30]

Comparison Recordings:
Helios Overture, Symphonies, etc. Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra [ADD] Sony S4K45989
Helios Overture, etc. Blomstedt, Danish Radio SO [ADD] EMI 7243 5 69758 2
At the Bier... Kontra Quintet BIS CD-503/504

Nielsenís Helios Overture lies midpoint on an arc of works stretching from Mendelssohnís Fingalís Cave Overture to Alan Hovhanessís Symphony No. 2, Mysterious Mountain. These pieces are descriptive music wherein the power of nature is depicted in quietly mysterious canonic and/or fugal string writing, leading into a grand full orchestra fanfare/chorale.* Along the way we also touch on Lisztís Symphonic Poem No. 1 and various works of Sibelius and even Ferde Grofé**. Nielsenís Rhapsodic Overture is even more deliberately evocative than the Mendelssohn, but not quite so successful a piece of music overall.

These particular performances are the most effective Iíve ever heard in the quiet detail and mysterious moods in Helios and the other works on the disk. Oddly it fall short of capturing the full grandeur of the brilliant full orchestra fanfares. The Prokofievan humor of Aladdin also comes off particularly well. Given the brilliant digital sound, there could hardly be a better introduction to Nielsenís most popular works than this disk.

Ormandyís Helios is probably the most effective performance of the work across the piece, but the 1967 analogue sound is beginning to show its age. Blomstedt receives slightly better sound recording, but he plays the work slowly, so much so that at times he is perilously close to losing his way. Both of these performances capture most of the grandeur of the orchestral climaxes.

Ved en Üng Kunstners Båre, "At the Bier of a Young Artist," was written as a touching lament for painter Oluf Hartmann. It was originally published in 1910 as an andante lamentoso for string quintet and as such recorded by the Kontra Quartet, assisted be Jan Johansson, double bass. Naturally this work was also performed at Nielsenís own funeral. It loses nothing in being transcribed for string orchestra and gains much poignancy in the superbly affecting performance given here by the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra.

*OK, strictly speaking, the Mendelssohn work does not contain either a chorale or a fugue, but comes awfully close, and in other of his works he certainly fully embraced these forms.

**Beethoven was too violent and extroverted to enter this contest although his Sixth Symphony must receive honorable mention, and if we want to push the origin further back into time we end up with Haydnís Creation and Vivaldiís Four Seasons and perhaps even various works of Jean-Féry Rebel and Purcell. Anyone for Palestrina?

Paul Shoemaker



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