Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Symphony No. 2 Four Temperaments (1902)
Symphony No. 4 Inextinguishable (1902)
Danish State Radio SO/Thomas Jensen
Danish State Radio SO Launy Grøndahl
Mono ADD
Rec Concert Hall, Danish State Radio, 3 Oct 1947 (Sym 2); 17-19 Aug 1951 (Sym 4)

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These performances are not merely vivacious they are eruptively ferocious as if the Danish countryside was volcanically riven. Both Jensen and Grøndahl bring similar qualities to the performances. If a sense of danger and the unpredictable is missing from most studio performances this is not true of the present coupling. This quality of being on the edge of something uncontrollable or even of being swept into the uncontrollable is immanent. The Second Symphony (dedicated to Busoni) is contemporaneous with Scriabin 2, Melartin 1, Magnard 4, Glazunov 7 and Elgar’s Falstaff. It is a character portrait of the Four Temperaments: Choleric, Phlegmatic, Melancholic and Sanguine. In the Choleric Jensen leaves us in no doubt of the possessed fury of this music. The Melancholic I have never heard paced as well nor as grief-stricken - the superior in its expression of sorrow to so many ceremonial pieces. The optimistic and unstoppable confidence of the last movement struts and celebrates yet avoids arrogance.

The Fourth Symphony’s unruly buffeting is relieved by a pastoral allegretto and a poco adagio uncannily close in bitter intensity to a Shostakovich adagio. The ‘Life Force’ that shakes and cleaves this symphony’s outer movements is the same force that grips (albeit in more romantically Tchaikovskian ecstasy) Louis Glass’s Fifth Symphony of three years later. Grøndahl (1886-1960), a very fine composer in his own right, staggered Edinburgh Festival performances with this work in 1950, paving the way, with Jensen and Tuxen, for the Nielsen revival of the 1950s. This awakening was aided by the advocacy of major critical voices such as Robert Simpson and Robert Layton - the latter’s notes adding valuably to this release.

I have not heard the Blomstedt Decca set nor the Bryden Thomson on Chandos however the Blomstedt is well thought of and in fine sound. Still and all, these two historic performances have the power to shake you from complacency. Much more than a mere historical experience.

Rob Barnett

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