Syms 1 & 3
The new benchmark' and 'set to become the reference recordings' - these are a couple of the verdicts on the new Carl Nielsen cycle from Sakari Oramo and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, based on the team's performances of the Fourth and Fifth symphonies, released in 2013 (BIS-2028). for the present instalment, Sakari Oramo has chosen the composer's first attempt in the genre, completed in 1892: A work by a composer still in his mid-twenties, and mindful if not overly respectful of previous models. Thoroughly classical in it's proportions, Symphony No.1 owes much to Schumann, while at the same time displaying affinities with the fieriness of Berlioz, with the lyrical tone of Grieg, and with the rhythmic vitality of Grieg's fellow-Norwegian Johan Svendsen, who conducted the work's première. (In later years Nielsen often conducted his own music, but at this time he was still dependent on his income as an orchestral player, and sat among the second violins.) If the work met with a certain sympathy - one influential critic wrote that the work promised 'a coming storm of genius' - what might be termed Carl Nielsen's 'definitive' breakthrough as a symphonist only came some 20 years later, with the première of Symphony No.3, later subtitled Sinfonia espansiva. The work was described by one reviewer as 'genuinely Carl Nielsenesque in all it's strange mixture of naiveté and refinement, humour and lyricism, violence and grace', and it was soon taken up by orchestras across Europe. In the second movement, Andante pastorale, Nielsen unusually adds vocalizes for solo soprano and baritone: as he put it in one of his programme notes, the aim was 'to underscore the peaceful atmosphere you might imagine in Paradise before the Fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve'. The movement was played at Carl Nielsen's funeral, in Copenhagen Cathedral on 9th October 1931.