Fresh and daring Nielsen
03 December 2014
Orchestral Choice BBC Music Magazine
Chris LeeMusic is life and, like it, inextinguishable.
'Nielsen's explanation of the title of his Fourth Symphony is also a key to the interpretation of the work. Alan Gilbert succeeds in suggesting the force underlying its progress through changing landscapes towards the thrilling conclusion with two battling timpanists. The New York Philharmonic players respond collectively and as individuals.
Handovers between string sections are at daringly quiet dynamic levels and are almost imperceptible. The woodwind combine to produce a fresh, wellblended sonority in the pastoral second movement; but in the transition to the finale the first oboist gives a personal twist to his solo. The live recording in Avery Fisher Hall builds up a powerful sound-picture from the individual contributions, rather than offering an integrated tutti sound; in stereo, the violins seem oddly disembodied. The early First Symphony is no makeweight.
For all its momentary echoes of Brahms and Dvorák, it's full of Nielsen's characteristic turns of melody and harmony and his volatile transitions, framed in one of his purposeful key-schemes. Gilbert interprets it flexibly and sympathetically, and is again rewarded by wholehearted playing. Dacapo's cycle is due to end next year, to mark the 150th anniversary of Nielsen's birth:
after the first two impressive instalments, I'm already impatient to hear how Gilbert and the Philharmonic tackle the towering Fifth and the enigmatic Sixth Symphonies.