Violin concerto, Op. 33 (FS 61)
Flute concerto, FS 119
Clarinet concerto, Op. 57 (FS 129)
Carl Nielsen wrote three concertos for instruments he knew intimately: the "Violin Concerto," which he composed in the middle of his career, and two late works, the "Flute Concerto" and the "Clarinet Concerto." Of these pieces, the "Violin Concerto" is the most conventional in its lyrical style, and flashy virtuosic displays, reflecting the norms of a late Romantic concerto of the Brahmsian stripe. Yet even here, Nielsen's mature personality shows in the unusual instrumental match-ups in the orchestral accompaniment, the spinning out of long, folklike melodies, and the use of a two-movement form, which he used again in the "Flute Concerto" and the "Fifth Symphony." Products of the 1920s, the "Flute Concerto" and the "Clarinet Concerto" reveal Nielsen's explorations of modernist techniques, and are notable for their unstable tonality, unsettled moods, angular lines, and the extraordinary independence in the orchestral sections, which provide a dramatic and even disruptive counterpoint against the solo parts. These audiophile recordings by Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic conclude their Nielsen Project on DaCapo, which also includes the six symphonies. The exceptional performances by violinist Nikolaj Znaider, flutist Robert Langevin, and clarinetist Anthony McGill are presented in heightened relief with close microphone placement, which helps balance them against the sometimes chaotic scoring, especially in the "Clarinet Concerto." Collectors should note that this disc and the symphonies are available on separate hybrid SACDs and in a box set.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This disc is a fitting addendum to an excellent Nielsen Symphony cycle. The violin, flute and clarinet concerti have all the stylistic earmarks which constitute the unique Nielsen sound: unexpected harmonic twists and turns, mercurial rhythmic patterns and a parade of colors and textures. In the final analysis, the composer valued a strong thematic component above all else. It’s here in abundance, especially in the Violin Concerto possibly because this was the composer’s own instrument. Nielsen clearly valued the mellifluous qualities of the violin as well as its dazzling, pyrotechnical capabilities. Turning to the Flute Concerto, the composer adds an impish, mischievous element yet adheres to the instrument’s basic lyric nature. Composed last, the Clarinet Concerto is the most forward leaning of the 3. Remember the clarinet, snare drum collision in the composer’s 5th symphony? You will detect a similarity. Nielsen explores the vast range and timbral versatility of the instrument yet never wanders too far afield from the clarinet’s inherent vocal quality. The 3 soloists, 2 of them NYP principals, are superb and more than up to the serious demands posed by these works. Maestro Gilbert and the NYP provide incisive, vivid support. The Super Audio sonics are superb: rich, full range and three dimensional. The liner notes offer many fascinating insights into the genesis and formal design of these works.