ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
Carl Nielsen - Symphonies 2 & 3


CARL NIELSEN - SYMPHONIES 2 & 3 - MICHAEL SCHONWANDT (Conductor) - INGER DAM-JENSEN (Soprano) - POUL ELMING (Baritone) - DANISH NATIONAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA - NAXOS 8.570738

The symphonic compositions of Carl Nielsen (1865 – 1931) stand as landmarks in the post-Romantic era. Quintessentially Danish in mood, the six symphonies reflect an impressive span of development from neoclassical whimsy to hard-core modernism. The Nielsen cycle is an absolute necessity for any respectable record collection of 20th century music.

These fine performances were recorded in 1999 by Dacapo. The complete cycle is now being re-issued by Naxos. At budget price, the Schønwandt versions represent a serious challenge to the supremacy of Herbert Blomstedt’s San Francisco set (available on a pair of Double-Decca albums). The first volume of the Naxos re-issue offered a sublime performance of Nielsen’s Sixth (Sinfonia Semplice) and the present accounts of Nos 2 (The Four temperaments) and 3 (Sinfonia Expansiva) are similarly inspiring. The Danish National Symphony Orchestra generates a firm impression that they own this music and Schønwandt conducts with enthusiastic flair. The Danish vocal soloists in the andante pastorale of the Third have no equals on disc.

Schønwandt used the corrected critical edition of the scores for the first time on record. This is an interesting point overlooked in the booklet essay. The third volume in the cycle, coupling the dramatically heavyweight Numbers 4 and 5, will complete the cycle.

Stephen Habington