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Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Chamber Music Vol. 1
Piano Trio in G major (1883) [10:52]
Serenata in vano for clarinet, bassoon, French horn, cello and double bass (1914) [7:33]
Wind Quintet, Op. 43 (1922) [28:05]
Fantasy Piece for clarinet and piano in G minor (c. 1881) [4:03]
Two Fantasy Pieces for oboe and piano, Op.2 (1889) [6:20]
Canto serioso for French horn and piano (1913) [3:27]
From the incidental music to ‘Moderen’ (the Mother) (1920):
1) Tågen letter (The fog is lifting) for flute and harp [2:15]
2) Børnene leger for flute solo [1:20]
3) Tro og Håb spiller, for flute and viola [1:08]
Trio Ondine (Piano Trio)
Jens Elevekjaer (piano)
Nina Katherin Schlemm (harp)
rec. November 2006, March 2007, Queen’s Hall, the Black Diamond, the Royal Library, Copenhagen, Denmark. DDD
DACAPO 8.226064 [65:04]


This is the first volume in Dacapo’s Carl Nielsen chamber music series. Performed by two chamber ensembles the nine work programme calls for a variety of instruments with the feature score undoubtedly the Wind Quintet of 1922. These were recorded in Copenhagen in 2007 with the exception of the Piano Trio and the Wind Quintet – each previously released on this label. The sound quality is decent enough combined with rather workaday and incomplete booklet notes. 

Performed by the Trio Ondine the opening score is the three movement Piano Trio. Strangely we are not told anything about this in the booklet notes. By my reckoning Nielsen was only eighteen when he wrote it and it could easily have come from a bygone age, strongly evocative of a Mozartian and Mendelssohnian sound-world. The Trio Ondine are thoroughly at home with the sweet and simple, unnamed opening movement with its attractive main theme setting the scene for a summery excursion into green and pleasant countryside. The Andante is dance-like, oozing with melody and the appealing Finale, marked Allegro grazioso is notable for the violin playing of Erik Heide. 

The double-bass player Ludvig Hegner of the Royal Danish Orchestra would regularly undertake a summer tour of the Danish provinces playing chamber music with an ensemble formed by fellow orchestra members. Hegner had included the Beethoven Septet in his programme and requested from Nielsen a short score for strings and wind. Consequently in 1914 Nielsen provided a single movement quintet titled the Serenata in vano for clarinet, bassoon, French horn, cello and double bass. In this persuasive performance one wonders why this attractive score wasn’t extended into a full-blown serenade. Especially conspicuous is the darker-hued central Poco adagio section of an almost sinister quality. 

The marvellous Wind Quintet was composed in 1922 and scored for, flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn, and bassoon. Given a dedication to the members of the Copenhagen Wind Quintet, who gave the première, the score has secured a regular place in the wind chamber repertoire, although I personally consider many of its qualities to be rather overestimated. 

Cast in four movements the amiable Quintet opens with a playful Allegro ben moderato with elements of shyness that gradually gain confidence. I experienced the Menuetto as a confusing movement that seems to wander aimlessly whilst the contrasting Praeludium is robust, dark and foreboding. The score concludes with a extended Tema con variazioni with a hymn-like opening. The episode from 1:40-3:24 is mischievous and playful and from 3:26-4:08 clarinet cries dominate the proceedings. At 6:37-8:14 a French horn sounds a prominent reveille-like episode; between 8:15-9:13, evocations of freshness and of open spaces, followed briskly at 9:14-10:12 by music of playful frolics. To conclude the hymn-like opening of the movement returns at 10:17. Throughout the Wind Quintet we can enjoy playing of warmth and lyricism, although at times one was left requiring a touch more rhythm and vigour.

I do not currently have a version of the Wind Quintet in my collection. However, among the most popular versions in the catalogues appear to be performances from the Oslo Wind Ensemble on Naxos 8.553050 and from the Frosunda Wind Quintet on BIS CD 136. 

Nielsen composed his single movement Fantasy Piece for clarinet and piano in G minor around 1881 which makes the work the earliest on the disc. The score was dedicated to a ‘M. Hansen’ about which little is known. Possibly he was a regimental musician from Odense. One experiences the score as delightful, relatively undemanding and highly melodic. It is performed here by clarinettist Søren Elbo who displays a beguiling tone and he is sensitively accompanied by pianist Jens Elvekjær.

Composed in 1889 the Two Fantasy Pieces for oboe and piano are early works from Nielsen’s formal composing career. The oboist of the Royal Danish Orchestra Olivo Krause is the dedicatee. Opening the work is a lyrical Romanze with a hard edge and an enchanting mellow centre. The extrovert Humoresque is rhythmic and urgent with commanding playing from the duo of Max Artved and Jens Elvekjær.

The short single movement Canto serioso for French horn and piano was composed in 1913. Intended as an audition piece for a position at the Royal Danish Orchestra this inconsequential score is quite unremarkable. Henning Hansen and Jens Elvekjær play with enthusiasm but despite their finest endeavours they cannot make the score better than it is. 

The final work comprises three short scenes from Nielsen’s incidental music to Helge Rode’s 1920 Royal Theatre play 'Moderen' (The Mother). The opening piece is Tågen letter (The fog is lifting), a tender love song for flute and harp. Bucolic revelry abounds in the central piece Børnene leger for flute solo. The sequence concludes with Tro og Håb spiller for flute and viola who make strange bed-fellows. Both instruments appear to be talking but taking little notice of each other. The spontaneous sounding flautist Anna Dina Schick is on remarkable form displaying an appealing tone quality. For some reason the Dacapo label only provide an English translation for the title of the opening work Tågen letter but not for the other two pieces. 

Michael Cookson 




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