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Carl Nielsen
Symphony No. 2 (The Four Temperaments), Op. 16
1. I. Allegro collerico
2. II. Allegro comodo e flemmatico
3. III. Andante malincolico
4. IV. Allegro sanguineo

Symphony No. 4 (The Inextinguishable), Op. 29
5. Allegro –
6. Poco allegretto –
7. Poco adagio quasi andante –
8. Allegro

CD 2

Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 4 in B flat major, Op 60
1. I. Adagio – Allegro vivace
2. II. Adagio
3. III. Allegro vivace
4. IV. Allegro ma non troppo

Joseph Haydn
Sinfonia Concertante in B flat major, Op. 84
5. Allegro
6. Andante
7. Allegro con spirito

Carl Nielsen
 8. At the Bier of a Young Artist (Andante lamentoso)

From the opera Maskarade (1904-06)
9. Hanedans, (Cockerel’s Dance)

From Symphony No. 3 (Sinfonia espansiva), Op. 27
10. 1. Allegro espansivo, from bar 385-661
11. 2. Andante pastorale, from bar 101-126
12. 4. Finale. Allegro, from bar 151-301

The Launy Grøndahl Legacy, Vol. 1 Š
By Martin Granau 

‘The Four Temperaments’ At the turn of the 20th century Carl Nielsen established his place at the centre of Danish musical life with two large-scale works. In 1901 he finished his opera Saul and David and in November 1902 he completed his Second Symphony, a decade on from his First. On 1 December 1902, three days after conducting the opera’s first performance at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, Nielsen gave the Second Symphony’s premiere as part of the Dansk Koncertforening concert series.

The symphony’s subtitle refers to the four bodily fluids of ancient medical theory: the violent (Allegro collerico), the indolent (Allegro flemmatico), the melancholy (Andante malincolico) and the joyously optimistic (Allegro sanguineo). According to the composer, he had once visited a tavern in the rural province of Zealand and found them represented by a comical wall-painting; no deeper programme for the symphony was to be understood.

Furthermore, as Nielsen remarked in a 1926 programme-note, each movement also contains its contrasting passages: ‘But the violent character can have its gentler moments, the melancholy its violent or lighter moments, and the exuberantly joyous can become thoughtful, indeed quite serious; yet only for a moment.

The torpid, the indifferent type, however, has difficulty getting out of his phlegmatic state, which is why this movement is both short (he can’t be bothered) and unvarying in its development.’

Grøndahl promoted Nielsen and other Danish composers right from taking up his post at the head of the DRSO. They met and understood each other as fellow composers; in 1919 Grøndahl showed Nielsen his Violin Concerto, and in 1925 Nielsen read through Grøndahl’s symphony and encouraged him to carry on composing. By the time of Nielsen’s death in October 1931 Grøndahl had already given almost a hundred performances of his music, including the rarely performed First Symphony. He never directed the Fifth, which he left to his colleague Erik Tuxen (1902-57), son-in-law of the symphony’s dedicatee Carl Johan Michelsen.

‘The Inextinguishable’ The best explanation for the subtitle of Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony comes in a letter from the composer during its wartime composition: ‘Music is life, and like it inextinguishable.’ He made a distinction between the kind of literary programme that dictated the course of tone-poems by Liszt and Richard Strauss, and the titles he used to suggest or emphasize an idea: ‘The music cannot and will not connect to any concrete thoughts. It wants to be free…’ (Levende Musik, 1909). We might understand the subtitle of the Fourth Symphony as more of a motto than a manifesto or narrative plan. Nielsen conducted its first performance on 1 February 1916 within the Dansk Koncertforening season.

There are four movements, designed to be played without a break, opening with an eventful Allegro of Beethovenian weight and purpose. A lilting country dance and an anguished slow movement build up to the finale’s titanic conflict, which is epitomised by the duel between two antiphonally placed sets of timpani soon after its opening and finally resolved in the most exhilarating fashion imaginable with the triumphant return of the first movement’s motto theme.

Grøndahl frequently observed Nielsen conducting and rehearsing his own music. During preparations for a performance of the Fourth, the two men discussed the opening, where the horns are liable to drown the theme in the violins. While admitting that the triplets hardly came through, Nielsen stuck to his guns and didn’t change a note, apparently to Grøndahl’s surprise.

The Fourth Symphony formed the climax to the concert on 24 September 1951 given by the DRSO and Grøndahl at the Royal Festival Hall in London, and to a UK tour which included BBC studio recordings of the Second and Third symphonies (with Grøndahl and Tuxen respectively). The performance marked a watershed in the international reputation of the orchestra, and in British reception of Nielsen’s music: a ‘knock-out’ symphony, according to the Daily Express. In more elevated terms, the correspondent of the Musical Times found it ‘a reminder of Britain’s loss in its general unfamiliarity with this Danish composer… it is perhaps unfortunate that Nielsen has been typed as “the Sibelius of Denmark”: he has surely little of that quasi-Olympian remoteness so characteristic of Sibelius. This symphony, indeed, is more reminiscent of Mahler… But its eloquence and utter originality give the work distinction.’

The performance went down in the orchestra’s annals as one of Grøndahl’s finest, and seated among the audience, his colleague Tuxen later counted it among the greatest musical experiences of his life. The following year Grøndahl received a prize carrying Carl Nielsen’s name for his work with Carl Nielsen’s music in general and the London concert in particular. Besides a sum of money, the prize included a bronze plate with the inscription ‘Music is life, and like it inextinguishable.’

RELEASE DATE: August 2020


EAN: 5709499881002