- Symphony No. 6 ("Sinfonia semplice"), FS 116
- Symphony No. 5, FS 97 (Op. 50)
Concluding their exceptional audiophile series of the symphonies of Carl Nielsen on DaCapo, Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic present the "Symphony No. 5" and the "Symphony No. 6, Sinfonia Semplice," the two most challenging works in the cycle. Nielsen was not comfortable with the changes modernism brought to classical concert music, and his misgivings are conveyed in the increasingly abrasive counterpoint and violent interruptions he provided as commentary in both works. While the "Fifth Symphony" retains traditional aspects of symphonic structure, and many passages are quite ravishing, it is most notable for the explosive ad libitum snare drum solo which threatens to derail the first part, and the dissonant fugues that dominate the second part. Even more unsettling is the "Sixth Symphony," which is far from a simple symphony. From the tonally unstable and volatile first movement, through the sarcastic Humoresque and the enigmatic Proposta seria, to the forced comedy of the Theme and Variations, Gilbert and the NYP convey the bitterness and frustration Nielsen felt toward the end of his career, and the performance is quite disconcerting, as it should be. The orchestra's playing is vivid to the the point of being startling, and it holds nothing back in the most climactic moments. Highly recommended.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A strong conclusion to a justly applauded modern cycle. Thus far, Maestro Gilbert and the NYP have demonstrated a certain affinity for the Danish master’s first four symphonies in consistently perceptive, dramatically intuitive performances. Symphony No. 5 is no less compelling. Maestro Gilbert’s sense of pacing, balancing and building are congruent with the composer’s vision. While all sections deliver, the strings in particular display a special sheen and cohesion. As good as this version is, the groundbreaking, incendiary Bernstein/NYP recording continues to loom large some 50 years after its release, remaining the preferred version for many. Upon its premiere, the accompanying Symphony No. 6 confounded audiences who were accustomed to the composer’s straightforward “heroic” style as exemplified by the previous 3 symphonies. They found the ironic twists and turns of this last symphony perplexing. Some critics even detected a declining inspiration they attributed to the composer’s faltering health. To this day, the concluding few measures are markedly ambiguous, almost derisive as if Nielsen were thumbing his nose at us. Maestro Gilbert nimbly maneuvers the tricky disparate elements within this symphony through careful balancing and observance of the composer’s precise dynamic and rhythmic markings, thereby making a solid case for this work. The players are with him all the way. The sound pickup is finely etched and three dimensional throughout both works, most prominently in the SA format. Finally, the excellent liner notes deserve mention.