is very adroitly paced. In fact overall
this is a better than pleasing collection
recorded by a conductor and orchestra
familiar with the idiom.
While I have a reservation
about a tendency towards congested sound
when the music is loud - as in the crackingly
driven Festival March from the Aladdin
Suite - this is prime Nielsen.
The souk and drone tones of the Marketplace
of Ispahan are fascinating. As with
the Sixth Symphony they show Nielsen
embracing a gamey dissonance which here
works perfectly. At 2:03 forwards we
hear echoes of The Rite. In the
same piece and the dancing galanterie
of the strings might perhaps have caught
the attention of the young Alan Hovhaness
because that is exactly what that strand
of the score sounds like. I recall the
Svend Christian Felumb recording once
coupled with the Menuhin version of
the Violin Concerto of a Classics for
Pleasure LP circa 1970. Felumb was not
as animated as Willén. Tamas
Veto on Regis RRC
1134 (originally Unicorn)
is extremely well recorded and itís
a fine reading too but is less manic
than Willén nor is the coupling
as generous (the wonderful Fynsk
Forar and three motets). Speaking
of manic, Willén makes whirling
dervishes of the Negro Dance clearly
shaping the music to match the wild-eyed
garishness of the Ballets Russes - a
sort of Polovtsian Dances transplanted.
I have not heard Ulf Schirmer's recording
on Decca-Universal. In any event Willénís
is a great performance.
Cupid and the
Poet is not commonly encountered.
Apart from containing some fairly candid
memories of the Fifth Symphony (1:10
forwards) its peppery harmonies recall
the more enigmatic Sinfonia Semplice
written five year earlier.
plants its feet squarely in rustling
pregnant Brucknerian mystery on one
hand and on the other in Allan Pettersson
in that persistent woodwind figure at
1:52. It also looks forward a couple
of years to the Sinfonia Espansiva.
Its delicate textures are limpidly put
across by orchestra and recording team.
A lovely performance of a gentle work
that alludes to majesty without actually
stating it explicitly.
Then comes a classic
Helios Overture - from
the multi-parted horns to the rustling
dialogue of the strings to the barely
contained Brucknerian excitement of
it all. Itís all sable and clarity.
Here Nielsen allows the piece to evolve
to a sustained peak of majesty (3.00
rising to 3:50) and then has it dancing
off to a joyous optimism typical of
the Second Symphony. It finally curves
down into a sunset carolled and cosseted
by the horns.
As expected the wild,
frilly and woolly Maskarade overture
is taken at a brisk pace - though not
as Golovanov-rapid as I had expected
from the Aladdin suite. The overture
is not quite up there with Donna
Diana or the Bartered Bride or
Foulds Le Cabaret but it's not
far behind. The baritonal Act II Prelude
with its amber singing tones provides
a warm contrast with the overture.
Lastly there's Pan
and Syrinx which for me carries
echoes of Frank Bridge's There is
a Willow and Bantock's Pierrot
of the Minute as well as Delius's
Cuckoo. There are some pretty
Sibelian moments including something
from the Finnís Fourth Symphony at 1:10.
I sense that a great
deal of preparation went into this recording.
It has paid off in alert and sensitive
performances that rival any in the current
Those curious about
Nielsen but wanting for now to steer
clear of the symphonies could hardly
start in a better place. Nielsen fans
need this disc even if they pass others
by. As essential to the Nielsen collection
as Chung's Bis symphonies (1, 2, 3,
5), Ole Schmidt's splendid symphony
cycle on Regis, Bernstein's BMG-Sony
recordings of numbers 3 and 5 and Ormandy
of No. 6.