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Carl NIELSEN (1857-1931)
Symphony No. 3 Sinfonia Espansiva op. 27 (1912) [34:02]
Symphony No. 5 op. 50 (1922) [34:48]
Ruth Güldbæk (soprano); Erik Sjoberg (baritone)
Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra/John Frandsen (3); Erik Tuxen (5)
rec. 3-5 March 1955 from Philips LP NBR6034 (3); 29 August 1950, Edinburgh Festival. ADD
GUILD GHCD2340 [69:15]
Experience Classicsonline

After the Danacord historical sets of the Nielsen symphonies from Tor Mann and the composite set featuring Tuxen, Grøndahl and Jensen comes this Guild disc. They're a company that continues to spring agreeable surprises and this is certainly in that category. The Danacord sets and the Guild must be read with several Nielsen discs documenting classic Deccas of the 1940s and 1950s.
Guild here remind us, through vintage mono stock, of the advocacy of two of Nielsen's lesser known conductors. John Frandsen (1918-96) produces a rather overlooked commercial recording of Espansiva first issued by Philips. While it lacks the headlong tilt of Bernstein (Sony) its pulse remains vital. Frandsen makes much of the phrasing; detail lovingly dwelt-on makes it distinctive. If anything, his way is with the caressing of phrases some of which emerge in a new light. You would never call him impulsive - at least not on this evidence. After the middle two lingering pastorals comes the damask hymnal weight of the Finale. This is driven with urgency and with brass ablaze. This is a grand opportunity to catch up with a fine yet forgotten commercial release which tapped into and amplified the excitement created by the revelatory performances of the Fifth by Tuxen at the 1950 Edinburgh Festival and of the Fourth at the RFH by Launy Grøndahl in 1951. Frandsen was principal conductor of the Royal Danish Opera (1946-1980). He was awarded the Carl Nielsen Prize in 1981. His other recordings include the Symphonies 4 and 5 and Music of the Spheres by Rued Langgaard (DACOCD560) and Three Psalms by Herman D Koppel (DACOCD567-8).
After Frandsen and Nielsen 3 we hear history being made in a wonderfully present and gripping recording of the very Edinburgh Festival concert performance that set the Nielsen revival running outside Denmark. The audience cough and splutter a lot but we do not begrudge them that. In return we hear the DRSO opening the Nielsen Bible to the British public. The Fifth Symphony remains for me the most potent introduction to this composer. Nielsen was back on the international map as a result of the Edinburgh revelation. The conductor was Erik Tuxen (1902-57) who recorded the work with the same orchestra on five 12 inch 78s. Tuxen is not as dramatic as Bernstein - or for that matter Berglund - but there is a smoking tension about this performance as well as a nicely balanced pastoralism even if the percussion are extremely closely recorded. In the first movement the strings glow with a sumptuous luminosity. The horns bell out most movingly at 13:20 onwards at the aureate climax of the first movement.
Erik Tuxen also recorded the Piano Concerto 3 and Clarinet Concerto on DACOCD561-2 which also includes the Jolivet Piano Concerto. His Nielsen 1 and 5 are on DACOCD351-3 and Grieg's Piano Concerto is on DACOCD491-2. He can also be heard in Nielsen 3 and 5 on Dutton. Nielsen 1 and 5 are on another Dutton Decca transfer.
This disc is exhaustively documented by Robert Matthew-Walker. Nielsen enthusiasts will have to have this disc. Their needs are well served in these two historic recordings including the UK premiere of Nielsen 5.
Rob Barnett


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