Carl NIELSEN (1865
Symphony No.5, op.50 (1920/1922) [38:42]
Violin Concerto, op.33 (1911) [37:20] CD2
Flute Concerto (1926) [19:04]
Clarinet Concerto, op.57 (1928) [25:36]
Wind Quintet, op.43 (1922) [23:58]
Radio Symphony Orchestra/Rafael Kubelik (op.50); Arve
Tellefsen (violin), Frantz Lemmser (flute), Kjell-Inge
Stevensson (clarinet); Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Herbert
Blomstedt (concertos). Melos Ensemble (op.43)
rec. 17 June 1983, Concert Hall, Danmarks Radio, Copenhagen
(op. 50); 24–26 March 1975; 14–17 April 1975 (concertos);
4–5 December 1967, EMI Studio 1, Abbey Road, London (op.43).
re-issues of EMI 2703521 (Symphony), SLS 5207 (Concertos)
and ASD 2438 (Quintet) EMI
20th CENTURY CLASSICS 2068822 [76:17
A couple of
days after Kubelik gave this performance of Carl Nielsen’s 5th Symphony,
I received a cassette tape from a friend of mine, who worked
at Denmark Radio, containing a recording of this performance – it
wasn’t released on LP until 1986 – and a note instructing
me to play it immediately. I was late to work that morning.
Also, at that time, I had a friend staying with me, who
had come to London for a couple of meetings that day. He
had always professed an hatred for the music of Carl Nielsen
and listened to the tape tight-lipped and silent. When
I returned home that evening I discovered that my friend,
far from being bored with the Symphony, had cancelled his
meetings, stayed indoors and had played the tape several
times, amazed at the power and originality of the music.
Another convert to the cause of Carl Nielsen. He took a
copy of the performance home with him.
This is a performance
of titanic strength. Utilising tempi rather more deliberate
than most, Kubelik displays the Symphony exactly as Nielsen
described – two ways of working out the same problem, the
first movement, with its notorious side-drum, being the
emotional answer and the second movement with its two fugues,
fast and slow, based on the same music, the intellectual
solution. One might think that it would be impossible to
teach the Danish Radio Orchestra anything new about this
work, but Kubelik stamps his own ideas on the work and
the Orchestra responds to every nuance. The playing is
magnificent, the drummer giving his all and trying, as
Nielsen directs, as if his life depended on stopping the
progress of the orchestra. He’s a little backwardly recorded
but that allows us to hear what the orchestra is doing – sometimes,
there’s too much prominence given to the side-drum and
the orchestra is almost obliterated.
Over the years,
there have been many fine recordings of Nielsen’s 5th Symphony – Berglund,
Bernstein, Andrew Davis, Horenstein, Kletzki, Bryden Thomson
and Erik Tuxen – and I wouldn’t want to be without any
one of them. Kubelik’s is one of the very best recorded
performances I have ever heard; it’s an extremely valuable
addition to the continually growing recorded legacy of
Carl Nielsen’s music and should be on every record shelf.
It’s also a magnificent tribute to a great conductor.
was the first conductor to record all the Nielsen Symphonies,
Concertos, and miscellaneous orchestral pieces and have
them presented in one boxed set. When it was released it
was in direct competition with the Ole Schmidt set of the
Symphonies (on Unicorn) and it must be said that neither
set was entirely satisfactory. The best set of Nielsen
Symphonies is still the Danacord historical set with mainly
live performances from the 1950s, all conducted by the
composer’s friends (DACOCD 351/353). In the Blomstedt set
the Concertos fared rather better than the Symphonies.
Concerto has, in some hands, seemed a somewhat lightweight
work, but this simply is not so. True, there’s lots of
good tunes, felicitous orchestration, a dazzling cadenza
in the first movement, and a sense of fun in the finale
and all this can make one forget what a tightly constructed
work it actually is. Tellefsen is a lyrical player and
he is a perfect soloist for this work, making the music
sing and dance, without using it as an overt showpiece.
It’s a fine interpretation and Blomstedt directs a straightforward,
if somewhat stolid, accompaniment.
the Wind Quintet, for the Copenhagen Wind Quintet,
Nielsen decided to compose a concerto for each of the players,
reflecting the personalities of the performers, but only
achieved the two recorded here before his untimely death.
The Flute Concerto is one of his happiest inspirations,
written for Holger-Gilbert Jespersen, who recorded it with
the Danish Radio Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Jensen,
in the 1950s (DECCA LXT 2979), who had a love of French
music, this work, despite having no French connections
whatsoever, is full of gallic charm and wit – especially
the pitting of the aristocratic flute against the coarse
bass trombone. Lemmser plays the work well, and manages
to express monstrous outrage each time the trombone interrupts
Concerto is a much more difficult work. Written for
Aage Oxenvad, and, again, intended to express his temperament,
this is a work of revolt, with a prominent part for side
drum. In one movement, the music moves through moments
of drama, pathos, storm and stress, it’s not an easy
listen and only very slowly lets you into its own unique
world. Stevensson isn’t always quite at home with the
music but he makes a good job of a very difficult part,
he’s especially good in the tortured music, where he
seems to be screaming for his life. Blomstedt is at his
best here, encouraging the orchestra to join in the struggle
and really fight for what they believe in.
Finally, the Wind
Quintet, the “delectable wind quintet” as Robert
Simpson has it. Delectable it is too. Written after the
Herculean labours of the 5th Symphony,
here is music of relaxation, entertainment and enjoyment.
The first movement is an easily flowing conversation
between the players, the second a gentle waltz, the third,
where the oboist changes to cor anglais, is a serious
introduction to the final movement – a very pleasing
set of variations on a tune Nielsen took from his own Hymns
and Sacred Songs written a few years earlier. Here
is the first hint of the concertos to come as some of
the variations express the personality and temperament
of the player. It’s a wonderful conclusion to an interesting
set. My only reservation is that the oboe sounds acidic
and strained; I don’t remember that on the original LP.
This is a very
enjoyable set, well worth having, especially for Kubelik’s
masterful interpretation of the 5th Symphony.
The sound is good, apart from the oboe mentioned above,
and very clear and clean. David Fanning’s notes are succinct
but instructive. One interesting point – the drummer in
the Clarinet Concerto is named, but not the protagonist
in the Symphony, very odd, especially considering
the important role he has to play. I wonder why? One thing
bothers me. Why doesn’t Rafael Kubelik’s name appear on
the front of the booklet? Simply glancing at the disk one
would believe this to be another re-issue of the Blomstedt’s
Danish recording of Nielsen 5.
to enjoy here, so please do enjoy it!
from previous months Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the
discs reviewed. details We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to
which you refer.