Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Symphony No. 1 in G minor, Op. 7 (FS16) [32:54]
Symphony No. 5, Op. 50 (FS97) [33:31]
Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra/Thomas Jensen
Helios Overture, Op. 17 (FS32) [11:50]
Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra/Erik Tuxen
Flute Concerto (FS119) [18:37]
Gilbert Jespersen (flute)
Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra/Thomas Jensen
Clarinet Concerto, Op. 57 (FS129) (26:46)
Ib Erikson (clarinet)
Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra/Mogens Wöldike
Maskarade (excerpts: Overture [4:00]; Magdelone’s Dance Scene (Act I) [3:05]; Prelude (Act II) [4:10]; Hanedansen (Dance of the Cockerels) [4:41])) (FS39)
Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra/Thomas Jensen
Svend Simon SCHULTZ (1913-1998)
Serenade for Strings [15:55]
Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra/Erik Tuxen
rec. Danish Radio Concert Hall, Copenhagen, June 1952; (Helios, Schultz: Serenade), July 1952 (Symphony No. 1), April 1954 (Symphony No. 5, Flute Concerto, Clarinet Concerto, Maskarade). Mono. ADD
DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 1858 [78:46 + 77:56]
The regulars of the Decca Nielsen project of the 1940s and 1950s were Mogens Wöldike (1897-1988), John Frandsen (1918-1995), Launy Grøndahl (1886-1960), Emil Reesen (1887-1964), Erik Tuxen (1902-1957) and Thomas Jensen (1898-1963). We meet several of them here amid these very well packed discs.
There was a time when this pioneering Danish Nielsen material was the sole province of Decca LPs Rather bleached and attentuated they sounded too. They palled against the vibrancy of Bernstein and Ormandy before the 1970s new dawn represented by two grand LP projects: Blomstedt and Danish Radio and the still superb Ole Schmidt and LSO (Unicorn and now Regis). Dutton and Danacord have issued these 1950s recordings before and many others of Danish 1950s provenance. Here they sound as good as they are ever likely to sound. They are in mono and their audio quality leans ever so slightly towards the thin and reedy at the upper end. There’s also a degree of congestion in the denser louder episodes. The ear quickly becomes attuned to this and for the most part the mind filters them out of the experience.
Jensen is slower and introspective in the two central movements of the First Symphony. The outer movements are turbulent and exult in the powerful charge of joy so often carried by Nielsen's music. After a sensibly long silence we move from the crashes of the finale's last pages of Symphony 1 to the mysteries and the clamorous Nordic conflicts of the Fifth Symphony. Recorded two years later it instantly sounds in better heart than Jensen's First. Its dynamic range, from tense intimacy to the brutality of what always seemed to me to be illustrative of the Roman legions, is wider. Tuxen's Helios is from 1952 and you have to listen through the modestly noticeable hiss to follow this work from auburn dawn to dazzling Mediterranean sunshine carried by those rowdy trumpets searing their way over a hymnal paean. Again the strings tend towards shrillness but other instruments, especially the woodwind, are strongly rendered.
The second disc in this slimline single-width package is almost as tightly packed as the first. The Flute Concerto moves from innocent pastoral scamp, piping away in delight, to knowing what it is to gaze into the void. The soloist takes the role of an Orpheus and even then tries to charm the ill-willed fates. This strikes me as one of the sweetest versions to be contrasted with that of Julius Baker on Sony who made of it a more anarchic contest. The Clarinet Concerto is chillier still; yes, with moments of pastoral calm but more often with raw abrasion. It comes across as more humane than the portrayal by Kjell-Inge Stevensson, Blomstedt and the DRSO on EMI Classics. Not that this stops Eriksen finding gawky upheaval in the gusty finale.
Jensen returns to the podium for an inspiring and storm-driven Maskarade. Magdelone's Dance is the height of ineffable elegance with a touch or two of Viennese-pointed playing superbly put across. Jensen really revelled in this. It’s the prize track of the disc. It is followed by the Prelude to Act II which is ruminative and atmospheric. In the Hen's Dance we return to something similar to the Magdelone piece but Smetana and the czardas was an influence in a work with some extremely imaginative writing.
Svend Schulz's Serenade for Strings concludes the second disc. This lithe and compact little piece is from 1940. It sports a thudding bass with the manner seeming to be a slightly updated version of the Suite by Frank Bridge. The finale finds Schulz fully up and running with a nice line in melody and streaming panache. It’s not quite up there in the popularity stakes with the Wirén Serenade but it is still good to make its acquaintance.
Lyndon Jenkins' note is full of interest especially in his tackling of the panorama of conductors associated with the Danish Radio Orchestra and with Nielsen's music and its ascent to favour.
The disc booklet is stylishly completed by miniature reproductions of the original Nielsen Decca LP covers from the 1950s.
On this encouraging evidence I look forward to more in this series from Tuxen and the others.  

Rob Barnett
Nielsen recordings from the 1950s vanguard in recordings that sound as good as they are ever likely to sound.