Nielsen: Songs / Dam-jensen, Lassen, Staerk

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It would be easy to just say that if you like Brahms and Schumann--and perhaps Wolf without the diminished chords--you'll like these very attractive and very accessible songs by Carl Nielsen. But that would shortchange the substantially original aspects of these pieces, which represent the Danish composer's efforts at songwriting throughout most of his career. For instance, neither Brahms nor Schumann are anywhere to be found in the lovely, lilting melody and swirling accompaniment to Op. 10's "Sommersang" from 1894, nor in "Silkesko over gylden laest!" (from Op. 6), whose musical setting is so perfectly aligned with the rhythms and sounds of the Danish text that it's hard to imagine it performed in any translation. In fact, almost all of Nielsen's songs are set to Danish poetry--much of it written by his favorite J.P. Jacobsen--and this gives a special color to the sung notes, given pre-eminence by the composer's stated desire to never overshadow the words with obtrusive piano parts.

Highlights include the two-minute "Genrebillede" (Period piece), a delicate and dramatic gem, "Seraferne" (The Seraphs), which playfully alternates major and minor chords, the Op. 4 songs (with their more overt Brahmsian influence), and the simple yet captivating melodies of "Underlige aftenlufte!" (Oh, strange evening breezes) and the Italian pastoral song "Italiensk hyrdearie". The program-ending duet from Nielsen's opera Masquerade is a charmer.

All of these 23 pieces are sung to near-perfection--with lovely tone, excellent expressive control, and native sensitivity to interpretation and pronunciation--by soprano Inger Dam-Jensen (who reminds me of a young Dawn Upshaw) and baritone Morten Ernst Lassen, ably accompanied by Ulrich Staerk. My only complaint is the bright, airy sound that causes the piano to become somewhat harsh at louder volume. But song enthusiasts will definitely want to have this rare and very worthy entry in the Nielsen and solo-song discography.
--David Vernier,

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8224218

  • UPC: 730099991827

  • Label: Dacapo

  • Composer: Carl Nielsen

  • Performer: Inger Dam-Jensen, Morten Ernst Lassen, Ulrik Staerk