Happy 150th birthday, Carl Nielsen

Posted on: June 9, 2015

“ ‘Quirky’ is a descriptor that seems to have stuck to Danish composer Carl Nielsen, born 150 years ago on June 9, 1865,” writes Tom Huizenga on Tuesday (6/9) at NPR’s Deceptive Cadence blog. “The late music critic Michael Steinberg said Nielsen was a ‘very great and very quirky composer at the same time.’ … Sample almost any spot in his symphonies and you’ll find Nielsen up to something just a bit unusual, from harmonies and melodies that don’t quite align to ambiguous phrases, seesawing from major to minor keys. Then there are the more obvious episodes. Nielsen gets his Third Symphony started by hammering the same note 26 times. In his Fifth, he instructs the snare drummer to try to sabotage the entire piece, and in his final symphony, a triangle interrupts like a telephone ringing off the hook…. Nielsen would become a national hero … but recognition beyond Denmark would take longer. It was nearly 20 years after his death in 1931 before Nielsen’s music began to attract foreign audiences, thanks to the touring Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the advent of the LP and support from star conductors.” The article includes Steinberg’s spoken 2001 commentary on Nielsen’s symphonies.

Posted June 9, 2015