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Symphony No. 3 in C Major, Op. 22
Hjortholm, Tone Picture, Op. 53

Bamberg Symphony Orchestra - Frank Cramer
recorded 19-23/7/99, in the Sinfonie an der Regnitz,Bamberg. DDD
Dacapo 8.224098 [67.20]

This is the other Nielsen - overshadowed by his more illustrious compatriot Carl. Ludolf Nielsen was similarly from the rural area of Denmark, from a non musical background. At an early age, he showed an aptitude for playing music, and was sent to a local teacher for lessons. After some limited professional teaching, young Ludolf, having won a scholarship, was enrolled in the Academy of Music in Copenhagen for three years. His musical style was to a large extent self-taught, and he also formed and performed regularly in a String Quartet. In addition to these activities, he also played in the Tivoli Orchestra.

Having won another Scholarship, which enabled the young composer to study in Leipzig for two years, he started to make his contacts in the musical world, and also to develop his own very personal style. This involved bi-tonality and whole tone scales and this is unusual in Danish music, to say nothing of music from a largely self taught composer.

The third symphony, his last, was completed in August 1913. This was his largest work, involving orchestration including six horns and two harps!! Today this does not seem to be a handicap, but it was given as a reason as to why the Symphony was not popular during the composer's lifetime. Even a shortened, simplified version prepared for performance by one of Nielsen's pupils, the conductor Launy Grondahl, failed to make an impact.

This should not put anyone off, as the symphony is warm and romantic with well rounded melodies and very satisfying orchestration and structure. The version recorded here is the full version, and I cannot see why it has lain unperformed since 1923. Three further performances of the cut down version in 1933, 1938 and 1943.There is certainly no reason now to stop you from exploring this repertoire, given this superb recording from Danacord, recorded in association with Bavarian Radio.

The symphony is in four movements and is cast in a traditional mould. The first movement is in a modified sonata form, using four themes in blocks of two, and represents the struggle between light and dark, and good against evil. A scherzo in 6/8 follows which is inventive, and uses the allegory of the sea and its undersea merfolk as the basis of its content. This movement becomes more and more animated through two trio sections, and ends by being whipped up into a frenzy.

There follows a superbly romantic slow movement which undulates between melancholy, anxiety and worry, set off by beauty and restfulness. This leads into a finale which moves us to maritime storms. As these progress, the mood becomes increasingly calmer until the end of the movement where peace and quiet reigns supreme.

The second work on the disc, the tone poem Hjortholm, is based upon the fantasy of the spirit of the destroyed castle of Hjortholm, destroyed in 1535 and never rebuilt. The piece covers the history of the castle covering its time of glory, through to its demise. Another superb piece by Nielsen, written in easily assimilated style. Perhaps his time has at last arrived.


John Phillips

see also review of Symphonies 1


John Phillips

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