Nielsen: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 3 / Oramo, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic

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This is very, very good. We seem to be going through a particularly satisfying period as regards Nielsen symphonies on SACD. First we had Gilbert’s cycle with the New York Philharmonic on Dacapo, and now we have this sterling second installment of Oramo’s, containing the First and Third Symphonies. Both works receive marvelous readings, with world class playing from the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and interpretations that propel the music forward with all of its muscular energy and lyrical intensity.

The First Symphony is, in this respect, perhaps a more remarkable (but not “better”) performance than the Third. Usually the work gets damned with faint praise: “early Nielsen;” “Brahms praised it;” and the like. Here the music sounds fully mature, the outer movements played with such verve that their tendency towards formal stiffness simply vanishes. The highly developmental third movement that does duty for the scherzo, also sports an unusually wide range of mood, with Oramo’s attention to accent and phrasing paying big dividends. If you have ever had doubts about this symphony, this performance may well erase them.

The “Espansiva” also packs quite a wallop. Its high octane opening gestures enlivens the entire movement, nowhere more so than in the grand waltz at the heart of the development section. The pastoral second movement is magnificent: the string playing has tremendous intensity, and there’s also an unusually bold contribution from the brass when they finally have the opening tune. Soloists Anu Komsi and Karl-Magnus Fredriksson aren’t highlighted unduly. Their wordless vocalize merges with, and emerges from, the surrounding texture with a naturalness that’s memorably poetic. In the last two movements, once again Oramo’s punchy accents and rhythmic drive create powerfully satisfying and idiomatic results.

BIS’ engineers have, as expected, achieved tactile, glowing sonics, placing the orchestra in a warm and open acoustic space and capturing every textural detail with just balances and palpable presence. It’s a good time to be a Nielsen fan.

-- David Hurwitz,

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: BIS-2048

  • UPC: 7318599920481

  • Label: BIS

  • Composer: Carl Nielsen

  • Conductor: Sakari Oramo

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra

  • Performer: Anu Komsi, Karl Magnus Fredriksson