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Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Symphony No. 5 (1922) [34.48]
Symphony No. 6 (1925) [31.37]
Finnish Radio SO/Jukka-Pekka Saraste
rec. Culture Hall, Helsinki, Sept 1997 (5); Sept 1999 (6)
WARNER ELATUS 0927 49424-2 [66.27]


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Immediate impressions are of lucid and cleanly recorded performances of Nielsen's last two symphonies. Saraste is blessed with a pristine aural sound-stage. The woodwind and brass are given a potent though not shattering presence. Accompanimental brass gestures which often go for naught elsewhere here float to the surface offering surprises and pleasure. These are estimable performances extremely well recorded in an open and natural acoustic. Saraste is an analytical and frequently exciting interpreter. This would make a very sound introduction to Nielsen's art.

Saraste is a mite cooler than Schønwandt and Bernstein in the Fifth Symphony. Schønwandt is on Dacapo while the Bernstein appears in a bargain box from Sony Essential Classics. The Sixth Symphony also tends towards sphinx-like objectivity but its warmer human side is excellently portrayed by Ormandy on Sony (again the same boxed set as the Bernstein Fifth).

A sound, unglamorous and inexpensive introduction to these two Nielsen symphonies. The Fifth - a harbinger and oration concerned with conflict and humanity; the Sixth a Mobius strip of a work which peers clear-eyed and with some humour at the world of 'modern music'.

Rob Barnett

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