Classical Music Playlist, June 8, 2023

After 16 years in the second violin section of the Royal Danish Orchestra from 1889 when he also composed his first two symphonies, in 1905 Danish composer Carl Nielsen gave up his orchestral position to devote all his time to composition. He would become a Danish national hero, eventually composing six symphonies that to this day are among the core repertoire of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra who have recently released a 3-CD set of all six symphonies led by Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi. Each day this week, we’ll feature one of Nielsen’s first five symphonies from this new cycle with the Fifth on his birthday, June 9.

“Carl Nielsen has his own, personal language,” Fabio Luisi says. “At times, it is highly unusual, but it is also witty and profound, and it is highly obvious that the Danish National Symphony Orchestra is extremely familiar with its distinctive characteristics.”

Liner notes from this new recording cycle describes the Symphony No. 4 “The Inextinguishable”:

Nielsen’s positive attitude towards life took him a long way. But in 1914 the First World War broke out, marking a decisive crisis of values even for a modern humanist like himself. He was trying to find “the power of light” as a defense against the menace of the dark, and this led to the highly original Symphony No. 4 “The Inextinguishable” (1914–1916). The symphony is an overwhelming physical drama, and it seems obvious to hear its violent music as the sound of war. Carl Nielsen’s own explanation, however, was the opposite – that the symphony was an expression of the eternal will to life. The symphony derives its subtitle from the motto “Music is life and, as such, inextinguishable.”

The Symphony No. 4, “The Inextinguishable,” by Carl Nielsen from the new cycle recorded by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Fabio Luisi, is today’s Midday Masterpiece.

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