Nielsen: Symphonies 1 & 4
23 October 2014
It's puzzling why Carl Nielsen's six symphonies, written between 1891 and 1925, are still widely undervalued. They offer a bracing alternative to the afterglow of Romanticism, and with off-kilter rhythms and compact, often spiky melodies, they still sound extraordinarily fresh. Especially so in new recordings by conductor Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic, who are in the middle of recording four albums of Nielsen's orchestral music. The new disc pairs the First and Fourth symphonies. Nielsen dubbed the latter "Det Uudslukkelige" (The Inextinguishable) and conducted its premiere in 1916. Perhaps it was the First World War, or his failing marriage, that inspired music that surges with intense expression (note the explosive opening bars), pauses to look back to Mozart, and finishes with a kind of glorious yet hardened tenacity.