- Symphony No. 1 in G minor, FS 16 (Op. 7)
- Symphony No. 4 ("Det uudslukkelige"; "Inextinguishable"), FS 76 (Op. 29)
With this 2014 release on DaCapo, Alan Gilbert continues his exceptional SACD series of the symphonies of Carl Nielsen, performed with high energy and technical brilliance by the New York Philharmonic. One doesn't often find audiophile recordings by this orchestra, but the NYP seems to have a special connection to Nielsen's music that goes back to the important recordings Leonard Bernstein made with them in the 1960s, and the hybrid multichannel format is an ideal way to do justice to these multidimensional works. The "Symphony No. 1" and the "Symphony No. 4, The Inextinguishable," were separated by a little more than two decades, but the distance between them seems much greater because they straddle the Belle époque and World War I. Both symphonies show Nielsen's characteristic folk-like themes, strong propulsion, and rugged counterpoint, but the "Symphony No. 1" was influenced by Brahms and shows a late Romantic harmonic richness, while the "Symphony No. 4" is more linear, transparent in textures, and sharply modernist in outlook, with a quirky approach to progressive tonality that is also shared by the "Symphony No. 5" and the "Symphony No. 6, Sinfonia semplice." Gilbert treats each work on its own terms, so the taut sonata form of the "Symphony No. 1" gives rise to a rather muscular performance, while the discursive developmental sections of the "Symphony No. 4" make its interpretation seem freer and more rhapsodic by comparison. The orchestra demonstrates its best playing throughout, with clear separation of colors and a wide dynamic range, so the super audio showcase is fully warranted.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Gilbert/NYP Nielsen cycle is one disc shy of completion. The latest release features a coupling of early and mature works. The Symphony 1 is well constructed and harmonically novel for its day, an auspicious first effort by anyone’s standards. Symphony 4 expands upon this trajectory of originality which initially crystallized with the lovely Symphony 3. In terms of thematic organization, harmonic arc and color, the final four symphonies solidify this composer’s stature as a major symphonist of the early part of the 20th century. Maestro Gilbert maintains a firm hand on the proceedings, artfully steering his orchestra through the alternate stretches of tension and repose. The NYP members provide nuanced, alert playing, unleashing ample horsepower when required. In a fiercely competitive field, this issue more than holds its own. The sound pickup, especially in Super Audio, has plenty of gusto and presence.