Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Nielsen Symphonies Shine in New SACD

Nielsen: Symphony No. 2, The Four Temperaments; Symphony No. 3,  Sinfonia Espansiva
New York Philharmonic
Alan Gilbert, conductor
DaCapo SACD


Carl Nielsen was one of the great symphonists of the 20th century, as this live recording readily demonstrates. His second symphony, "The Four Temperaments" features four movements, each depicting a different mood. Four different modes of expression. Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic take full advantage of the score, and offer up an exciting reading that not only shows the contrasts between the movements, but highlights the overarching continuity between them.

Nielsen's Symphony No. 3 is subtitled the "Sinfonia Espansiva," for good reason. Gilbert and the Philharmonic deliver on the bigness of the work, without making it sound bloated. Rather, Nielsen's music seems to just open up and build in a natural and unhurried manner.

Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic perform these symphonies in an organic fashion. Conductor and orchestra work together as one to create a unified artistic vision (not surprising, given Gilbert's strong ties to the ensemble). The lyrical passages sing, and the climaxes arrive with power and authority. These are dramatic readings, but not overly dramatic. The music is dynamic and flowing, but never overwrought.

Although you can play this on a regular CD player, I highly recommend listening to it on an SACD player. The expanded detail and presence makes the performances even more engaging. I gained new appreciation for the precision for the Philharmonic's bass section, particularly during the third symphony. And for a live recording, the sound is amazingly clean and free of audience noise.

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