Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Symphony No. 2 The Four Temperaments (1901-02) [31:28]
Little Suite for Strings Op. 1 FS6 (1888) [14:42]
Serenata in Vano (1914) [8:18]
Tivoli Symphony Orchestra/Carl von Garaguly
Hilmer Nielsen (horn): Jörn Nilsson (bassoon): H C Sĝrensen (horn): Asger Lund Christiansen (cello): Johan Poulsen (double bass)
rec. early 1960s
MAESTRO EDITIONS ME.054 [54:42]
Two Hungarian violinists made exceptional contributions
to the propagation of the music of Carl Nielsen. One was his son-in-law
Emil Telmányi and the other was Carl von Garaguly. Both studied with
Hubay in Budapest. Telmányi recorded much of Nielsen’s music for
violin including the early string quartet with his family ensemble whereas
Garaguly, who had been assistant deputy leader of the Berlin Philharmonic
during the First World War at the ridiculously young age of seventeen
and subsequently led the Gothenburg Symphony, later turned to conducting.
It’s in that capacity that we meet him in his early 1960s LP of
the Second Symphony.
Obviously, he was hardly the first to have recorded the symphony. Those
great names Jensen and Grĝndahl are long associated with this symphony,
and others in the canon – Jensen in particular has always been
laden with the mantle of inheritor of the holy writ, as he played under
Nielsen in the Tivoli Orchestra and was supposed to have had an acute
recall of Nielsen’s specific tempi. It was Jensen indeed who made
the first studio recording of the work many years before Garaguly’s
recording with the famed Tivoli orchestra for Vox-Turnabout whose British
discs were, I believe, pressed by Decca.
Garaguly is a memorable interpreter of the symphony. He directs with
trenchant authority characterising each moment vividly. The recording
isn’t the most upholstered for the time, its warmness imperiled
by a suggestion of stridency but that barely impedes the forceful vibrancy
of the direction and playing – a few ensemble slips are a price
very well worth paying. Those eager to whip out a stopwatch and construct
agonizingly tedious tables of movement tempi might like to know that
Jensen takes the faster tempo in the first and third movements, they’re
neck and neck in the scherzo and Garaguly drives a touch harder in the
finale. What’s far more important is his sense of consistency,
his vision of the work from first to last. He employs especially persuasive
rubati in the scherzo – they sound utterly natural – and
balances choirs with care. The climaxes in the slow movement are finely
graded, the brass has chorale nobility, and he unleashes a seismic sense
of vitality in the finale where once again his use of rubati is notable.
It’s this that distinguishes him from a later exponent such as
Morton Gould in Chicago who was equally fast in this movement but far
less knowing with the result that the music feels breathless. From 4:25
in the finale there are some clicks on the LP used and they go on for
thirty seconds or so. Annoying but not destructive. (these are being
amended) Like Grĝndahl, Jensen, Tuxen and – as a fellow reviewer
here reminded me recently – Tor Mann, Garaguly approached the
symphonies with an adaptable sense of their energy and strangeness.
It’s to our lasting advantage that this early generation of Nielsen
symphonic interpreters was allowed to record at least part of that symphonic
repertoire (Mann recorded the whole cycle).
Coupled with this is the Little Suite for Strings which is
played and directed with great charm. Garaguly’s reading reminds
me of that of John Frandsen with the Royal Danish forces; they both
have a similar sense of unforced generosity. Neither conductor overplays
this lighter element of Nielsen’s compositional output. Modesty
and elegance are alike held in balance in both performances. The final
work is a chamber piece, the whimsical and ingenious Serenata in
Vano. Maestro’s track listing truncates this to one movement
and underestimates its running time, but the work is heard complete.
This conversational piece features some of the best contemporary wind
players as well as a leading cellist in the shape of Asger Lund Christiansen
and the top-flight, droll double bass playing of Johan Poulsen.
This is a good restoration.