Carl Nielsen: Cantatas
01 April 2010
This is all "occasional" music, and some critics might say the more occasional the better, but that's not quite fair. Certainly this disc will appeal more to Nielsen completists than to normal people, but the music isn't at all bad (or dull), though the less said about the texts the better. Nielsen had the ability to write in a "popular" vein without dumbing-down his style too much or turning irritatingly pompous. He just wasn't that kind of guy.
The two cantatas are in fact substantial works, and they have plenty of melodiousness and charm, even if they aren't ultimately memorable in the way that Nielsen's truly major pieces are. All of the music here is well sung, played, and recorded, and Dacapo has very intelligently placed the spoken recitation in the National Exhibition Cantata at the end of the disc, so you can skip it entirely (something I heartily recommend). The set also comes with an extensive and very well-written booklet with complete notes, texts, and translations--everything you would need to get to know these unfamiliar pieces. It's your call.