This recording has already been reviewed fulsomely on
these pages by Jack
Lawson, and Oleg Ledeniov made it one of his 2012 Recordings
of the Year. Had I been a bit quicker off the mark with this
review I might have done the same, as I concur with all of the
praise given to these performances from numerous quarters.
Nielsen’s symphonies have been a staple of my orchestral
listening since the late great Robert Simpson broadcast a revelatory
series on BBC Radio 3 way back in the 1980s. There were relatively
few recordings around then, but a few cycles have remained favourites
for one reason or another. Without boring everyone beyond belief,
I can suggest your trying Ole Schmidt’s complete set on
Regis (see review),
formerly on Unicorn, the Fifth Symphony from which never
fails to bring tears to my eyes. Then there is the superbly
recorded and reliably stylish Herbert Blomstedt (see review)
which has been high on the list for many years. Whatever your
Nielsen history, you will have your own opinions, but this recording
from Alan Gilbert with the New Your Philharmonic seems to press
some universal button of wild acclaim which sweeps the bulk
of the competition into a cocked hat.
The pacing of each movement is done superbly well in these performances.
Gilbert doesn’t go for thrill-seeking speed, and tumult
and drama are held in check as often as they are gloriously
unleashed. Crucial moments such as the vocal contributions in
the Andante pastorale of the Symphony No. 3 are
done very well indeed, and these passages of sheer beauty are
all the more affecting for that ‘iron fist in a velvet
glove’ sense of power delivered by previous Allegro
espansivo, to provide just one example. Righteous praise
has been heaped on the brass in these performances, but equal
acclaim is deserved for the strings, who have both weight and
passion in the sound as well as all of the sheen and refinement
you could wish. In the end, it is Nielsen’s inspiring
themes which win, for while it is the orchestra which is such
an admirable vehicle, it is marvellously heroic material such
as the third symphony’s Finale and the openings
of both works which make you want to stand up and fly through
the room for the sheer joy of it all.
You can’t have the light without the dark, and Nielsen’s
more sombre moods, such as the Andante malincolico third
movement of the Symphony No. 2 plumb depths of which
some recordings can only dream. Gilbert draws the tempo out
here a little more than most, to the point you feel he might
have gone too far when the wind solos start. As the music unfolds
its strength takes hold overwhelmingly, and you can’t
imagine wanting to hear it any other way by the end.
With cracking SACD sound, a live ‘vibe’ to the performances,
the superb Avery Fisher Hall acoustic and a band of some of
the best players in the world at the very top of their game
this is a disc to have and to hold from this day forth etc.
If you have yet to experience Nielsen’s symphonies then
this a terrific place to start a relationship which will last
and enrich for a lifetime.
see also review by Jack
Lawson (October 2012 Recording of the Month)
Masterwork Index: Nielsen Symphony
2 ~~ Symphony