Friday, 6 July 2012

Carl Nielsen

Composers whose music is found all over the world tend to come from a handful of countries. Thus Germany and Austria, Central Europe, Russia, France and Italy have produced composers whose voice can be heard frequently and everywhere. Other countries can dig up one or two composers: the Spaniards have Manuel de Falla. The Finns have Sibelius. The English have Purcell and Elgar. The Norwegians have Grieg. Most other countries don't really have any international representatives – The Netherlands, America, Switzerland, Sweden, Portugal, etc.

The Danes would claim Carl Nielsen as a popular international composer. I have just spent many evenings listening to Nielsen – mainly his violin concerto, which I have played by Nikolaj Znaider, or Arve Tellefsen. I have persevered but, to my mind, Nielsen is an historical figure rather than a composer with a real message to impart. Think Max Reger, or the worthy compositions of Weingartner, Furtwängler or Bruno Walter. It really seems to be very difficult to write truly memorable themes, tunes or melodies and without these music can appear to meander in a scholarly and erudite sort of way.

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