Nielsen: Ophelia Dances / Christensen, Rasilainen, Aarhus Symphony, Arhus Sinfonietta

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The idea of building great music from modest or fragmentary means has characterized the work of Nordic composers for generations. In Svend Hvidtfelt Nielsen’s music, that idea finds a particularly exquisite and absolutely contemporary expression. In Toccata the music glances towards a filmic chase-down, whereas Nielsen in Ophelia Dances claims to ‘hear the dancing’ of that fragile character from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The album concludes with Nielsen’s single-movement symphony, Symphony No. 3, which sets in motion a cumulative journey upwards from low to high: a symphonic Tower of Babel, reaching for the heavens. All of the works on this release are world premiere recordings, and the album is being released to mark Svend Hvidfelt Nielsen’s 60th birthday. Nielsen is also a gifted church organist, and on this album he plays the organ solo part in the Toccata.



The Ophelia Dances is certainly strange and interesting music, more “ambient” in sound but still well structured beneath its odd sonorities. Though apparently a continuous work, it is clearly composed in discrete movements, placing the accordion in the midst of bitonal swirls of sound and pungent brass and string interjections.

The Symphony No. 3, written in 2010, uses a sort of musical “big bang” at the outset, followed by “stuttering fragments” which “muster to initiate the development of the symphony’s vertical structure, supported by foundations in the form of tectonic pedal notes.” This is indeed a technical description of what happens, but the listening process is more emotional and therefore more fascinating.

A strange sort of album, then, yet fascinating and certainly worth a listen!

– Arts Music Lounge

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8226581

  • UPC: 636943658123

  • Label: Dacapo

  • Composer: Svend Hvidtfelt Nielsen

  • Conductor: Ari Rasilainen, Henrik Vagn Christensen

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, Arhus Sinfonietta

  • Performer: Bjarke Mogensen, Svend Hvidtfelt Nielsen