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Nielsen: Complete Symphonies (1-6) Box set

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Ole Schmidt
  • Composer: Carl Nielsen
  • Audio CD (12 July 2001)
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Regis Records
  • ASIN: B00005V43B
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 285,602 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

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I know these Nielsen performances on vinyl for some thirty years now. To hear these cd-versions was a big and pleasant surprise. They sound so much better! I think no other conductor comes as close to the essence of Nielsen as Ole Schmidt. Only Rozhdestvensky on Chandos matches Schmidt, although in a completely different way, in understanding the depth of this powerful music. Rozhdestvensky really opens up the scores and profits from the amazing Chandos recording.
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Thes performances date from the early 1970's,are excellently performed and recorded(Bob Auger).
Performances of the three later symphonies are paticularly vital and energetic.The only performances that better Schmidt's are the early 1950's Danish Radio SO versions;these are all mono and lose much because of inferior sound.
Regis wipe the floor with all the competition,most of which are at least twice this price.
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Ole Schmidt leads the London Symphony Orchestra through a warm, thoughtful and at times brilliant cycle of Nielsen's Symphonies. He brings out the development of ideas throughtout the cycle well and presents them as a compelling complete vision.

While the performances are not so urgent at those of the Danish Radio Symphony Orchesta under Jensen in the 1950's this is perhaps a good thing. The music is given room to breathe. If anything the renditions get better as the cycle progresses. After a strong rendition of the first symphony there can be no disguising that Symphony No 2 is the weakest composition among the six. The performance of Symphony No 3, while good, is no match for the beautiful textures and atmospheres that Leonard Bernstein coaxed from the Royal Danish Orchestra in 1965. But in the later symphonies this set really hits its stride culminating with a convincingly argued Fifth and a Sixth with near perfect balance and grace.
The sound is good throughout.

Anyone who likes late nineteenth century symphonies, especially those of Dvorak will find this to be a rewarding introduction to the early twentieth century symphony, in fact Nielsen's First could almost be a Dvorak Tenth.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x92e4c4ec) out of 5 stars 3 reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92ea4d2c) out of 5 stars Decent Recordings from a World-Class Orchestra 27 Oct. 2007
By B. R. Merrick - Published on Amazon.com
I have to admit, I'm not as familiar with Nielsen. I only knew that I liked what I had previously heard of his music, before buying this symphonic cycle. (He has written a lovely clarinet concerto that is worth listening to as well.) There's an earthy quality to the playing here that I think invigorates the music and keeps it from sounding stale. There is a lot to delve into with these recordings, and the vitality of the interpretation here helps a lot with the learning process.

Beyond my inability to give more detail about Nielsen's music, a modernist who was obviously influenced greatly by the preceding Romantic era, what holds me back from giving it 5 stars are the technical aspects of these CDs. There is something tinny about the louder treble parts that gives certain instrumental groups (the French Horns, for instance) a metallic sound they don't normally have. But I assure you, this is a minor complaint. If you're just finding out about this composer, this is an excellent group of recordings to start with. I am enjoying them very much.
HASH(0x93269d44) out of 5 stars Revered Nielsen symphony cycle among the very best 12 Jan. 2016
By Firebrand - Published on Amazon.com
The Ole Schmidt Nielsen symphony cycle from the 1970s is revered among many critics and academics, and was a favorite of composer and author Robert Simpson (the book Carl Nielsen: Symphonist). There is plenty of idiomatic character to Schmidt's interpretations, notably the rough edges found in good Nielsen. There is a darker shade to the entire palette, a bark in the horns, etc. that is highly appealing. Simpson liked Schmidt's faithful adherence to the scores.

Schmidt's versions of the final four symphonies (3-6) are among the best options available. The First and Second represent the weakest offerings of this set. The First is good but there are some flaws in execution in the inner movements. The Second is too fast for my taste. An extremely powerful rendition of the Fifth deserves special mention. This performance offers the most savage side drumming of any version recorded, including Jascha Horenstein's (featuring the percussionist Alfred Dukes). Nielsen's instructions are for the drummer to attempt to stop the orchestra "at all costs". This rendition is one of the few that fully live up to it. The Third and Fourth are brilliantly executed, powerful and tough. The Sixth, appealingly slower than many versions, is a clear, sharp, dramatic presentation of a difficult work.

The negatives of the set are minor (and a matter of personal taste). As mentioned, the tempo on the Second is a shade fast in my opinion, but for those who like faster Nielsen, it won't be a problem. I hear a degree of sobriety in some of the performances and in certain passages that, while wonderfully argued by Schmidt, sometimes robs certain moments of full satisfaction. This is an issue that also comes up with with Herbert Blomstedt's interpretations. I also believe more recent interpreters have tapped into aspects to Nielsen that Schmidt did not, offering more in terms of expressive contrasts. For example, Bryden Thomson delivers even more intensity and expression. Gennady Rozhdestvensky and Michael Schonwandt's cycles offer more lyrical treatments of certain passages. And there are recordings of the individual symphonies that rival the ones here. Finally, there is a raw, even wild quality to some of the orchestral play, as if Schmidt really pushed the players to the edge in certain movements.

That said, the Schmidt set is clearly among the very best, preferable to all but a few. It is hard to top Schmidt, and the old recordings of the previous generation of Nielsen interpreters (Tuxen, Jensen, Tor Mann, and of course, Jascha Horenstein). Far superior to most modern sets (including Blomstedt/San Francisco, Chung, Jarvi, Vanska, Saraste, Salonen, Kuchar, Leaper, Gilbert) (and also more recently, Colin Davis, Sakari Oramo and John Storgards), symphonies 3 through 6 undoubtedly among the finest, with the Fifth the best of all. The acclaim is well deserved.

(This set has been issued on both the Regis and Alto labels.)
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x93ba312c) out of 5 stars A welcomed reissue 3 April 2014
By Thomas Martin - Published on Amazon.com
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Few 'modern' composers were as fortunate to have conductors like Ole Schmidt (Nielsen) and Paavo Berglund (Sibelius Sibelius: Complete Symphonies) (and I believe, to a lesser extent, Blomstedt (both composers)) champion their music. Unlike so many conductors who fly in to present a concert or make a recording, these two men *lived* the music of the composers, studied the composer's work carefully, tidied-up the orchestration when they thought it better served the music, remove the accretions that had accumulated in the printed scores of the decades, and remained true advocates of the music.

It is fortunate that both Alto (Nielsen: Complete Symphonies) and Regis have reissued these classic Unicorn recordings by Schmidt. I have the Regis issue and although the recordings don't appear to have been remastered, the sound is nothing short of excellent. The quality of the performances is well-known. I cannot recommend this set more enthusiastically.
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