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Svend Nielsen
1. Vi vågner, det er hverdag
2. Dit ansigt blunder i dæmringens stof
3. En kølig dis kaldet virk’lighed
4. Når lygterne slukkes på Hvidovrevej
5. Jeg sov ind og drømte

5 Inventioner for klaver
6. Vivace
7. Moderato
8. Tempo giusto, ritmico
9 Lento, rubato
10. Leggiero

Holger Drachmann. Sang i Baaden
11. Der skinner sølvglans over havets vove

Holger Drachmann. Venezia
12. Jeg hører i Natten den vuggende Lyd fra Venezias Vand

Fall for klaver
13. Oktober
14. November
15. December

Emil Aarestrup. Ritorneller
16. De mørke Lindetræers Duft var dejlig
17. Ved Kysse heftet i din Nakkegrube
18. Naar Munden neppe mere Kysset føler
19. Til Kys indbyder Armen, hvi og kjælen
20. Ja du har Ret! Vel maa du lee og hysse
21. Det Skjønhedsglimt, den yndighed, jeg mægted at liste fra dig

Holger Drachmann. Hilsen
22. Se, nu er Vindene milde

Holger Drachmann. Epilog
23. Se, jeg rækker dig en Krans af de dugbesprængte Blade

Svend Nielsen ©
By Karl Aage Rasmussen (translation: Wayne Siegel)

Composer Svend Nielsen was born in 1937 and studied musicology at the University of Copenhagen, while concurrently studying music theory and composition at The Royal Academy of Music in Copenhagen with Vagn Holmboe, Finn Høffding and Per Nørgård. In the following three decades, until 1998, he was employed as assistant professor of music theory at the Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus.

Few people like to be categorized, least of all artists, who often hate any notion that anything but free imagination might condition their creativity. But at his advanced age, Svend Nielsen still might have to accept being called the “lyricist” of contemporary Danish music, even though his musical life’s work is considerably more varied than any such description might imply. On the other hand, he hardly found it inappropriate to be called a “songwriter” long before the term came into vogue. Now days it is most often used in the context of singer-songwriter, where one and the same artist is responsible for lyrics, music and singing, but Svend Nielsen has never himself written the poems he has set to music, let alone sung his songs before an audience. Had he been born a few generations later, this might not have been inconceivable…

Svend Nielsen’s songs are mostly for solo singer with accompaniment, that is to say Lieder as in classical art music, not ballads, singalong songs or songs based on a folk song tradition, which was a musical passion for Carl Nielsen. A Lied is a special form of music, an artistic expression that unravels a poem or poetry into the form of a melodic mood.

Svend Nielsen’s songs almost exclusively use poems in Danish by Danish poets chosen for clearly personal reasons. The oldest (by Emil Aarestrup, Sophus Claussen and Holger Drachmann) are from the mid or late 19th century, the youngest (by Søren Ulrik Thomsen) is from 1987, and the rest are mainly from an intervening particularly fruitful period for Danish poetry that got underway in the 50’s: poets as diverse as Thorkild Bjørnvig, Frank Jæger, Inger Christensen, Jørgen Leth, Pia Tafdrup and Henrik Nordbrandt.

Since the term “dramatic” is commonly used as opposed to “lyrical”, it is clear that opera and theater play a very modest role in Svend Nielsen’s oeuvre, a solitary short chamber opera from 1968 he himself considers “totally unsuccessful” which he has withdrawn “so I don’t risk someone performing it again!” But the dramatic as such is not absent, neither in his artistic temperament nor form of expression. It smolders constantly and reveals itself in several other ways, for example spurred on by the poetic imagery of the multi-artist Jørgen Leth who approached Andy Warhol’s pop art and, for example, wrote “Sports Poems” (in Denmark Leth was a well-known cycling commentator).

Svend Nielsen’s Chamber Cantata from 1975 is based on a poem by Leth about a beautiful girl in a silver dress who “goes in and out of a golden wallpaper door”. She is seemingly the life of the party, glamorous and alluring, but she remains elusive and is described as “the silence among a thousand voices”. She is portrayed as something metaphysical, lifeless and alien, an emptiness that seems to affect an otherwise “full” world.

But it is characteristic that the drama here too is purely mental, not theatrical. It does not arise from sudden violence, dramatic outbursts or cinematic edits, it is in reality first and foremost an inner drama that takes place within the music’s own language. Overtly more classic-dramatic and direct in its construction is

Nielsen’s large-scale work Imperia from 1968 based on Sophus Claussen’s famous poem about “The Queen of the Earth Mass” and her power and might: “Splendor is my craving / I know no gentleness / I am barren Nature, the uncultivated wasteland, which gives stones for bread and which refuses to give birth.”

Svend Nielsen has always been captivated by weather phenomena and meteorology, and this has left its mark, for example on the orchestral work Nuages (“Clouds”, 1972), which depicts the structure and color of the various types of cloud “actually like direct program music”, he says. “The names of the different cloud formations are mentioned in the score, just like the birds of Olivier Messiaen!” But again, the concrete and external is a metaphor for the internal, for a psychological disposition or condition.

Nielsen composed two symphonies nearly twenty years apart, the first in 1979, with the characteristic title Stratocumulus, and the second in 1997, Himmelbuer (Sky Arches), both of which associate the title with the weather. But a major work which probably more than any other congregates the core of his artistic being into a single focal point is Sommerfugledalen (The Valley of Butterflies) with the title and lyrics taken from a sonnet cycle by Inger Christensen published in 1991. The work is for twelve solo voices (begun and partially premiered in 1998, completed in 2004), but is also found in a version for choir and orchestra. Sommerfugledalen is a masterpiece and key work in contemporary Danish music which, unfortunately, is heard far too seldom!

The word “lyricist” used in reference to Svend Nielsen should not lead one to expect improvised outbursts of emotion or detached whims. But in smaller forms, he often expresses himself in musical snapshots that outline or focus sharply on a single element. This applies to a distinct degree to his piano works, which all consist of independent movements that vary or elaborate a motif, a timbre or perhaps an atmosphere linked to experiences of nature, weather phenomena or the time of day and year. Natural forces, experienced as parallels to the psychic forces of man, are a continuous inspiration.

Technically speaking, Nielsen creates his music like a structural engineer, sober and methodical. But he has a special ability to find the poetic, the peculiar in the musical materials he chooses. The form and often very personal harmony are merged into balanced progressions without ever sounding contrived. And his music often contains a peculiar silence and simplicity beneath the surface, something almost prosaically straightforward, which might be related to his close relationship with the language of poetry, and which ensures that the lyrics never becomes idyllic atmospheric art. He is the sensitive interpreter of the Danish poets for whom language and music illuminate each other in constant intimacy.

RELEASE DATE: September 2023


EAN: 5709499970003