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Nielsen: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3 (LSO/Colin Davis) [Hybrid SACD]

Lucy Hall , Marcus Farnsworth , London Symphony Orchestra , Carl Nielsen , Sir Colin Davis Audio CD
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Nielsen: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3 (LSO/Colin Davis) + Nielsen: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 6 + Nielsen: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 5 (LSO/Davis)
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Product details

  • Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Sir Colin Davis
  • Composer: Carl Nielsen
  • Audio CD (11 Feb 2013)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Hybrid SACD
  • Label: LSO Live
  • ASIN: B00AMBS7LG
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 123,366 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Samples
Song TitleArtist Time Price
Listen  1. Symphony No 2: i. Allegro collerico (Choleric)Sir Colin Davis, London Symphony Orchestra 9:57£0.69  Buy MP3 
Listen  2. Symphony No 2: ii. Allegro comodo e flemmatico (Phlegmatic)Sir Colin Davis, London Symphony Orchestra 4:16£0.69  Buy MP3 
Listen  3. Symphony No 2: iii. Andante malincolico (Melancholic)Sir Colin Davis, London Symphony Orchestra 9:53£0.69  Buy MP3 
Listen  4. Symphony No 2: iv. Allegro sanguineo (Sanguine)Sir Colin Davis, London Symphony Orchestra 7:47£0.69  Buy MP3 
Listen  5. Symphony No 3: i. Allegro espansivoSir Colin Davis, London Symphony Orchestra11:28Album Only
Listen  6. Symphony No 3: ii. Andante pastoraleSir Colin Davis, London Symphony Orchestra, Lucy Hall, Marcus Farnsworth 7:25£0.69  Buy MP3 
Listen  7. Symphony No 3: iii. Allegretto un pocoSir Colin Davis, London Symphony Orchestra 6:28£0.69  Buy MP3 
Listen  8. Symphony No 3: iv. Finale: AllegroSir Colin Davis, London Symphony Orchestra 9:18£0.69  Buy MP3 


Product Description

Product Description

With this eagerly awaited recording of Symphonies 2 & 3, Sir Colin Davis completes his enlightening Nielsen symphony cycle. The first title in the series, Symphonies Nos.4 & 5, was Editor's Choice in Gramophone and Orchestral Choice of the Month in BBC Music Magazine. The second, with Symphonies 1 & 6 was awarded CD of the Week in the Sunday Times. Nielsen's second symphony was inspired by a naïve but vivid painting representing the four temperaments of the human personality. Adopting these defining characters for each of the symphony's movements Nielsen realised a sonic depiction of emotion. His third symphony, the most openly Danish of his symphonies, portrays spaciousness, power and vitality and is considered his greatest international achievement.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, especially the 2nd 14 Jun 2013
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Nielsen's 2nd Symphony is a bit of a classical "earworm". Colin Davis does a good job with it. By comparison the "reference" Ole Scmidt recording sounds a bit too fast. Having attended the concert the 2nd was recorded at, I think the sound is well captured. The 3rd is a work I have not previously got in to, but this recording might just be the one that takes me accross the gap. A good buy!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy conclusion to a worthy endeavour 19 Feb 2013
Format:Audio CD
This (SA)CD sees the end of Sir Colin Davis' dash into the world of Carl August Nielsen - consummate trumpet, horn & fiddle player AND, in his capacity of composer, THE national icon of 20th century Danish music. In many ways this must be characterized as a daring initiative on the part of a conductor well into his 83rd year at the time of the first recording, and from the start I have been greatly excited to see if Sir Colin's legendary grasp of Nielsen's contemporary Sibelius would show in his treatment of the great Dane. So far I've found it difficult to reach a clear conclusion, having found much to praise in the symphonies nos. 5 and 6, while the fourth (being slightly overdone) and the first in particular, as I see it, missed the mark somewhat. Consequently, I have in my reviews of both the earlier issues found that a cleaving of the disc - though difficult - might be in order, and interestingly this is also the case with the material in hand.

The second symphony, composed in 1901/02 - exactly 10 years after its predecessor - is, while not a work of youth, still the work of a composer trying for a style of his own. Nielsen had been looking for a suitable subject for a symphony for some time, and as fate would have it he came upon the needed inspiration in an inn in Sjælland (Zealand) where he stayed with his wife and some friends. In the common room Nielsen found a "most amusing coloured picture divided into four squares, in which the temperaments were depicted and given the titles "The Choleric", The Sanguine", "The Melancholic", and the "The Phlegmatic". The choleric was riding a horse; he had a long sword in his hand, and with it he was slashing wildly at the empty space around him.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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Perhaps because I am less knowledgable than the two reviewers who precede this one, I have less to grumble about. No sarcasm is intended here: quite simply I am a music lover and not any sort of musician or authority. However, I have long loved the Nielsen symphonies having been first introduced to them by a Radio 3 broadcast of No4 conducted by Sir John Barbirolli at the Proms in nineteen sixty something. In recent years my benchmark has been ... and still is ... the Decca set by Herbert Blomstedt and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. To be honest I can hardly claim to have made an extensive exploration of other recordings but those I have encountered on CD review programs etc have never made me want to dash out and buy. That was changed immediately when I encountered the first of hese LSO Live recording with Sir Colin Davis. The little taste-and-try excerpts available on Amazon ... always irritatingly brief but a useful guide nonetheless ... were enough to have me ordering at once. I was not disappointed nor have I been disappointed by the two subsequnt issues. This latest, consisting of Nos2&3 I find makes very satisfying listening. No3 is my favourite of the six and maybe, here and there, Davis is a tad restrained in the final movement but this is a minor niggle.

All in all these symphonies are extremely well performed here and the recorded sound is excellent. (With regards my opinion of the recorded sound I should in fairness point out that my sound system is hardly top end hi-fi: neither, however, is it bottom end!)

For anyone unfamiliar with the Nielsen symphonies this, surely, is an ideal starting point and you could do a lot worse that begin with this cd of Nos 2&3.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More of the same, I'm afraid 27 Mar 2013
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With this release, Colin Davis ends his series of live recordings of the Nielsen Symphonies. Those who have heard the earlier couplings of 1 and 6, 4 and 5 will very much know what to expect by now.

Frankly, I don't think Colin Davis `gets' Nielsen in the way he clearly does - say - Sibelius. Not for a moment that I am equating the two great Scandinavian masters here! Their sound worlds are, of course, completely different, and require different approaches to playing and interpretation.

This whole series of recordings - including these two middle-period symphonies, often sound under-characterised in interpretation. The light and shade is simply not there. In this set, for instance, II of the Expansiva just doesn't sound expansive - it comes across as rushed and perfunctory. And the end of `Four Temperaments', instead of surging with volcanic energy, simply sounds foursquare and rather dull.

I note similar lapses throughout the 6 symphonies - for instance, the charming and rustic middle movements (for example in no 4) tend to be dispatched in a rather dispassionate way. Very far from the naiveté intended, one feels. So, despite the excellent playing of the LSO throughout, there are clearly some systemic issues of interpretation which concern me.

Then we come to the sound. If you have read any of my previous reviews, you will know my opinion of the archetypal `LSO Live'/Barbican sound- airless, over-miked, dead and sterile are the terms that leap to mind. You can't wholly blame the Barbican acoustic, dreadful as it is - others have done far better here. Even the 'Classic Sound' team responsible here has done better in this venue, for other labels! (see, for example, their excellent Vaughan Williams Sea Symphony for Chandos).
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Davis's last installment in his Nielsen cycle is enjoyable but not an eye-opener 13 Feb 2013
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
The promotional blurb reprinted by Amazon says that this CD of Nielsen's Sym. 2 and 3 completes Colin Davis's cycle with the London Sym. in concert, but it diplomatically covers the fact that the first installment was considerably better than the second. If Davis had stopped with Sym. 4 and 5, he would have added something valuable to Nielsen's discography, a recording by a famous octogenarian leading very vigorous readings with a great international orchestra. Even with the lesser readings of Sym. 1 and 6, the standards of orchestral playing and recorded sound were high, and anyway, nobody is going to win over mass audiences to Nielsen's first and last symphonies, since the former is immature and the latter full of enigmas.

I'm not sure that the blurb is right in calling Sym. 3, "Sinfonia Espansiva," Nielsen's greatest international achievement - it waited fifty years after its 1912 premiere to get a hearing in the UK. For most listeners outside Denmark, the work burst on the scene in 1965 thanks to Leonard Bernstein's inspired recording, made in Denmark with a Danish orchestra. The sudden recognition of Sym. 3, 4, and 5 carried Sym. 2 "The Four Temperaments" in their wake, but it falls sort of the composer's great breakthrough in the "Espansiva," when he found his ebullient, joyful voice and a unique if limited harmonic signature. I'm no expert in the Nielsen Second, but Davis seems to skate through it. The first movement is fairly energetic but not much more than a skillful run through. The second movement waltz is perky and briskly led, but it doesn't evoke its label of "flemmatico," just as the first movement, which is supposed to be choleric, is too mild-mannered to fit the bill. The third movement, devoted to melancholy, is delivered nicely, although Davis considers it melancholy lite.

The finale, an expression of the sanguine temperament, should be boisterous and high-spirited (it's not far from Vaughan Williams in A London Symphony). Davis's reading shows some robustness, but as in the previous movements, I'm not sure he's doing more than going through the motions (Bernstein doesn't seem very engaged in his Sony reading, either, but he's more vigorous than this). For a conductor who really digs in and therefore makes the best case for the score, I'd start with Blomstedt on Decca or the bargain Naxos CD from Michael Schonwandt.

For any lover of Nielsen, the "Espansiva" is an injection of unfettered jollity, akin to the Jupiter movement in Holst's The Planets. Since its in the same idiom as Sym. 4 and 5, which energized Davis so surprisingly, I anticipated something free and happy. The opening chords are much better balanced than what Alan Gilbert got from the NY Phil. (they are starting their own Nielsen cycle on DaCapo), and the rousing first theme is ebullient within the bounds of restraint; the lyrical second theme doesn't come as a great contrast, then. Nielsen's three great symphonies all move in episodes with strong, overriding melodies rather than sonata-form development. Davis isn't alert to all the quick changes in the opening movement, but he is fully engaged and the LSO play superbly for him (who could resist the rollicking horns?). Most important, Nielsen's inner vibrancy is never lost. Gilbert had a hard time keeping my spirits raised.

The score gets a bit more reflective in the inner movements, but not much. Music, unlike literature, can evoke goodness and happiness all the time and still hold our attention (I'm thinking bout the old saw that it's much harder to create a character who is convincingly good compared to one who's convincingly a villain). Here Davis is almost Stokowski in his willingness to revel in blatant happiness. The second movement gives us one of Nielsen's loveliest pastoral moods(close to Vaughan Williams again); Davis pushes the pace a, which is a bit unusual but not unwelcome - the sense of busyness in the woodwinds contrasts sharply with the strong string interruptions. One blemish is that the offstage vocalise from Lucy Hall (soprano), Marcus Farnsworth (baritone) is sub paar - neither singer has an especially compelling voice or steadiness of tone.

The Scherzo features some signature Nielsen chirpiness in the woodwinds plus some fugato writing that needs a strong hand to hold together. Davis falters a little at the beginning, only to gain his footing as the movement unfolds. He's right, I think, not to impose one mood on this quirky, shifting music. but he's not right at all to rush the finale, where the big jovial theme isn't allowed to expand enough. The middle section, where themes and gestures move along like a quasi-fugue, could be more energized. Happily, the final triumphant outburst is convincing and rousing.

In all, this last installment falls between the best of Sym. 4 and 5 and the average of Sym. 1 and 6. Much as I enjoyed the high points, unless you are keen to hear the LSO in every work, the prize remains that first installment. Lightning didn't strike twice.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sir Colin Davis: Ave Atque Vale 22 April 2013
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Sir Colin Davis, the longest-serving principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra has died at age 85 (September 25, 1927 - April 14, 2013). Davis's contribution to British musical life was nothing short of immense. From 1959 when he first conducted the orchestra, he rose to become its principal conductor in 1995 and remained in the position until 2006, when he was appointed president. For those of us who had the pleasure of being present in the concert hall when he guest conducted in the US he will long be remembered for his stately and graceful stage presence and for hi complete immersion in the music at a hand - a rather broad spectrum of composers with whom he seemed to communicate.

This recording contains the eagerly awaited recording of Symphonies 2 & 3, Sir Colin Davis completes his enlightening Nielsen symphony cycle. The first title in the series, Symphonies Nos.4 & 5, was Editor's Choice in Gramophone and Orchestral Choice of the Month in BBC Music Magazine. The second, with Symphonies 1 & 6 was awarded CD of the Week in the Sunday Times.

The information accompanying this recording states, `Nielsen's second symphony was inspired by a naïve but vivid painting representing the four temperaments of the human personality. Adopting these defining characters for each of the symphony's movements Nielsen realized a sonic depiction of emotion. His third symphony, the most openly Danish of his symphonies, portrays spaciousness, power and vitality and is considered his greatest international achievement.'
Davis conducts the London Symphony Orchestra in `The Four Temperaments' (Symphony No. 2) and the `Sinfonia Espansiva' (Symphony No. 3) an din the latter symphony he is joined by soprano Lucy Hall and baritone Marcus Farnsworth for the extended wordless passages for which this symphony is so well known and remains a favorite among audiences. With these performances Davis establishes himself as a Nielsenian of the first rank...uplifting and inspiring.

One critic has written `This third and final CD from the series reminds us why Davis is so attuned to Nielsen: the music's Beethovenian conflict brings out the visceral dynamism in his personality. The opening and closing movements of these two symphonies bristle with vitality, and even in the slower music...Davis finds metaphysical fire and majesty, reinforced by the London Symphony Orchestra's meaty tone.' Sir Colin Davis had his detractors but his admirers far outnumber them. This is a superb valedictory recording for a great conductor. Grady Harp, April 13
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing conclusion to a very mixed Nielsen cycle 23 Feb 2013
By Evan Wilson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
The first two installments of Colin Davis' Nielsen cycle have been split decisions with the 5th Symphony far superior to the 4th, and the 1st outdoing the 6th. On this disc, alas, Davis' batting average declines. Neither of these performances is anywhere near the top rank. In fact, there's a curious lack of involvement with these performances that make it sound as if Davis had lost interest in the project and was just looking to get it over with.

In the 3rd, the opening hammered chords need to create the momentum for the movement, but here they plod along. It isn't really a matter of tempo, so much as understanding where the phrases are going. Understanding Nielsen's harmonic sense helps in this regard, and throughout the series, Davis seems to slight this fact. (He's better in the 5th perhaps because it's built on larger harmonic blocks in the way Sibelius.) As a result, there is much that seems aimless here.

But, Davis' handling of tempo isn't particularly strong either. The 'pastorale' second movement of the 3rd is played extremely fast. In fact, the marking is Andante, so there is call for a quicker tempo than one usually hears, but here things fly by as if Davis wants to get to the magical passage late in the movement. That passage isn't terribly balanced and doesn't 'sound' like it should because the vocal soloists are positioned too far forward AND aren't very good or subtle.

The third movement suffers from the same flaccidness as the first, while the finale doesn't really make much effect. Davis handles the 'swimming' music well, but the powerful opening 'march' theme simply doesn't make a strong effect and its reappearance near the end doesn't cap the symphony at all.

In the 2nd, things are little better. As others have noted, these are four movements that represent different character types, but Davis doesn't seem to evince much interest in that fact. The choleric 1st movement lumbers more than it boils, and the magnificent second theme fails to soar like it should. Like most conductors, Davis plays the phlegmatic 2nd movement too quickly. But, this is Davis' strongest movement.

In the melancholic 3rd movement, Davis again notes that the marking is Andante, not Adagio, and moves things along. To me, though, this is a case where Nielsen's marking is wrong. Perhaps he wanted to make sure that the tragedy of the movement didn't overbalance the other three movements, but the point of each movement is to overcharacterize each emotional state. As a result, I think a slower tempo helps, because the 'sadness' here has a kind of 'rending of garments' character. Davis does better with the more equivocal music in the middle of the movement.

And, in fact, that's again true in the finale, where Davis does a fine job with the short Adagio section where the sanguine person seems to suddenly face his mortality. (The more I think about it, the more it seems like Davis enjoys certain passages very much, and races through the pieces to get to the bits he likes.) But, the sanguine part of the movemment lacks character. The theme lumbers along and the strings fail to dance above it. And the final march is actually played at a well-considered tempo, but falls flat anyway. Where's the swagger?

Overall, I think if one is considering Nielsen cycles, Davis' ends up being a major disappointment. The best performance in the cycle is the 1st, which has not fared particularly well on records. After that, I find the 5th a solid version if not at the very top of the pile. But, the remainder of the cycle don't do much for me. The 6th is rather uncomprehending, while the 4th is extremely brusque and lacks any grandeur. And as I noted above, the 2nd and 3rd are tepid run-throughs.

I have high hopes for Alan Gilbert's cycle, which started off reasonably well with the same coupling as this one. That isn't a great recording, but it's definitely superior to this one.
5.0 out of 5 stars Really good, and fully recommendable to anyone collecting Davis' Nielsen 16 Feb 2013
By B. Guerrero - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I generally enjoy Colin Davis' work, and I really like this release of Nielsen's two most accessible symphonies. A big problem in the Nielsen third is the placing of the two vocal soloists in the second movement, marked "Andante Pastorale". In far too many recordings, the two soloists are placed way too distantly - making it difficult to decipher what's even going on. To my ears, Davis gets them placed just right. Further more, he makes a real effective backing-off of the tempo just before their entrance, thus lending a strong sense of 'having arrived'. This is one of the most magical moments in all of Nielsen's oeuvre, and Davis just nails it. Backing up to the "Four Temperments", symphony number two, I really like Davis' tempo relationships throughout the work.

The second is a symphony that can sound very quirky, and Davis avoids this pitfall by choosing tempi that really underline the mood - or 'temperment' - of each movement without resorting to exaggeration. In the first movement, "Cholorico", Davis doesn't come bursting out of the gate as so many conductors do. Yet, he steps on the gas for that very strange passage near the end, where the brass do these quick 'snarly' things - rapid little crescendos. It really works. Davis takes the "Phlegmatic" movement a tad more relaxed than usual, but then really draws out the "Melancholic" element of the slow movement, capped off with a terrifically intense climax. The "Sanguine" finale doesn't take off all lickity-split either. Yet Davis brings broadness and a degree of dignity to the brass chorale before the end. To my mind, this is a very considered "Four Temperments", and rather 'northern' in feeling at that - more moody and contemplative than this symphony often times sounds. But it's anything but a dull performance either.

The third symphony is every bit as well conceived and musically driven as Davis' performance for the second was. I'm very happy with this release and don't see much to fuss over. Then again, I must confess that I haven't heard the recent N.Y. Philharmonic recording of the same two symphonies. My guess is that Alan Gilbert's recording may be slightly better played and recorded than Davis'. But I'd be very surprised if the conducting were any better than this. So, if you - like myself - love that magical moment where the two wordless vocalists suddenly cut through the fog, mist and wind of the Danish channel islands, then this release is for you as well. For me, it's one of the 'die for' moments in all of western music.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy conclusion to a worthy endeavour 20 Feb 2013
By Steen Mencke - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This (SA)CD sees the end of Sir Colin Davis' dash into the world of Carl August Nielsen - consummate trumpet, horn & fiddle player AND, in his capacity of composer, THE national icon of 20th century Danish music. In many ways this must be characterized as a daring initiative on the part of a conductor well into his 83rd year at the time of the first recording, and from the start I have been greatly excited to see if Sir Colin's legendary grasp of Nielsen's contemporary Sibelius would show in his treatment of the great Dane. So far I've found it difficult to reach a clear conclusion, having found much to praise in the symphonies nos. 5 and 6, while the fourth (being slightly overdone) and the first in particular, as I see it, missed the mark somewhat. Consequently, I have in my reviews of both the earlier issues found that a cleaving of the disc - though difficult - might be in order, and interestingly this is also the case with the material at hand.

The second symphony, composed in 1901/02 - exactly 10 years after its predecessor - is, while not a work of youth, still the work of a composer trying for a style of his own. Nielsen had been looking for a suitable subject for a symphony for some time, and as fate would have it he came upon the needed inspiration in an inn in Sjælland (Zealand) where he stayed with his wife and some friends. In the common room Nielsen found a "most amusing coloured picture divided into four squares, in which the temperaments were depicted and given the titles "The Choleric", The Sanguine", "The Melancholic", and the "The Phlegmatic". The choleric was riding a horse; he had a long sword in his hand, and with it he was slashing wildly at the empty space around him. His eyes seemed close to popping out of his head, his hair was blowing insanely round his face, which was so distorted with anger and a devilish hatred, that I couldn't keep myself from laughing. The other three pictures were painted along the same lines, and my friends and I were heartily amused by their naivety, their exaggerated expressivity and their comical seriousness." (in-part translation of Nielsen's program notes (1931) for symphony no. 2). The composer's wife Anne Marie was quick to remark: "This might be just the thing for a symphony" - and less than a year later, it became exactly that.

As usual Sir Colin Davis coaxes some first class playing from the LSO - yet alas, something is missing. The interpretation is careful, straight faced, and clean, making very sure not to belabor the points - and that is precisely where - once again - the point is missed by the illustrious maestro. But ... whoa now, hold my horses ... aren't we living in times where less is more and understatement is the new black? Well, WE may be - but Nielsen wasn't; that, however, is not my point, originalism being a most disputed term these days, and rightly so. My point is that the basis for the music is caricature, which by its very nature is overstatement and "exaggerated expressivity" (Nielsen's own words!). That is why, though you might get away with it in some of the other symphonies, the second cannot be played like Mozart or Schubert ... or Sibelius. This music has to be constantly balancing on a knife's edge, constantly within sneezing distance of "too much" - and there Sir Colin (much like in his rather lack-luster rendering of the first symphony) is not prepared to go. If I ever doubted the truth of this, a quick listen to the sadly neglected recording made by Ole Schmidt (Danish conductor and composer (1928-2010), who coincidentally back in the early 1970s held the reins of the LSO, and as such worked alongside Sir Colin Davis for years) proved me right. His Choleric is seething with rage, his Phlegmatic (even though the movement is unusually fast paced) is utterly disinterested in all things, his Melancholic is positively suicidal, and his Sanguine persona shows to a T the other face of the condition: shallowness - the poisonous side dish to perpetual happiness.

That said, the reading does have its moments - i.e. in the first movement at 5'38 where the choleric (in the shape of the kettle drum) after a minute of relative quiet bangs the table shouting "Now, damn it, do as I say ... or else", and at the end of the fourth movement at 4'00 where the larder window is forced by a seemingly very clumsy burglar, leaving the sanguine personality to stop dallying for a moment - but, of course, what could possibly be wrong. Life is wonderful, right? And on we go - into the sunset. It is done better by another neglected Nielsen conductor (incidentally also a Brit with a very capital B) Bryden Thomson, who to boot does a wonderful peacock strut finish ... away from the problem, naturally. But still, nicely executed, Sir Colin.

The "Sinfonia Espansiva" is probably by a wide margin the most popular of Nielsen's symphonies, and it is not difficult to see why: it has everything. There is rural frolicking and sunlight galore, there is wonderment and serious philosophizing, there is daydreaming and contemplation of shapes in drifting clouds - in short: the best of pre-WWI Denmark ... presented at its very best. Sir Colin's version is fairly close to exemplary (and to my ears every bit as good as the recently much publizised recording by Alan Gilbert) - though arguably not quite on a par with some of the home grown issues - Schønwandt or Schmidt ... or my personal favorite: the live recording by Yuri Ahronovitch and the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra (Unicorn-Kanchana), sadly - and incomprehensibly - still only available on LP. Sir Colin suddenly (and almost equally incomprehensibly) sounds 50 years younger and the music is positively brimming with sunny joie de vivre. The second movement seems strangely rushed in places (frankly, where's the fire?!), but the two singers, appropriately distant, manage their bucolic vocalising quite beautifully.

So again: one case of "nailed it" and one case of "so-so".

It is perhaps no surprise that the two earliest and most carefree works should be furthest from Sir Colin Davis' worldview; I mean, we all get to delight in our understanding of complexity as we grow older, and simple light hearted fun tends to appear just a tiny bit suspect. If you take a general view of the Nielsen symphonies there is great depth and strong feelings aplenty to be found, and that tends to be where conductors prefer to go when interpreting his music. No wonder then, that the last three - written after the implosion of Nielsen's nationalism and the birth of his quasi-pacifist humanism - tend to get the most thorough servicing. In the fourth Sir Colin even manages to slightly over-sharpen the bayonets (if that is possible; I'm not a military man). In the case of the symphony no. 1, though, there's a definite inclination towards a Dan Brown-like shoehorning in of tortuous riddles and devious intentions under the motto: there must be more to this than meets the eye. I sincerely think there isn't - and nothing in Nielsen's diaries or voluminous portfolio of writings and letters suggest to me that there is. In the case of symphony no. 2 one often sees what I imagine to be an attempt to turn this musical "scherz" (for lack of a better word) into elevated absolute music; it isn't, and it never will be! On that count Sir Colin stands guilty as charged - to be fair, along with numerous others. As for the symphonies nos. 3-6 I can only recommend that you give them a go. Sir Colin Davis has much to give and even more to say; where that is warranted(!) he deserves a very thorough listening indeed.

As in the case of the two previous discs of symphonies the sound of the recordings is good in SACD - though not exactly spectacular - and I'm told that the CD sound is fine as well. Should one want to hear what SACD can do when wielded by experts try the Sibelius symphonies nos. 2 & 5 - or the Beethoven symphonies - with Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra (BIS). Even in two-channel stereo it is little short of breathtaking.
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