These are without doubt the two most brilliantly performed, most lucid recordings I`ve yet to hear of arguably Nielsen`s greatest symphonic achievements - though the sixth needs to be heard too, as do the preceding three, all having their distinctive merits.
Herbert Blomstedt, something of a Nielsen champion, conducts the San Francisco Symphony with flair and attention to detail. With several episodes of either insistent or downright wild drumming, both are a prerequisite of any recording of either of these hugely rewarding works.
They make a wonderful pairing, the generally more restrained fourth - despite its forthright title `The Inextinguishable` - acting as a kind of introduction to the magnificent fifth, a symphony in a hurry.
The two are (at least in this reading) almost exactly the same length, at about 36 minutes, and not a note of either seems less than essential.
Nielsen`s music can occasionally drift, or come across as slightly bland, but not here. I was lucky enough to hear the fifth as part of a concert in Denmark some years ago, in a not very large hall, and the impression it made was edge-of-the-seat exciting, overwhelming, especially when the drummer worked his tumultuous magic. It`s a great work, as is the fourth, and together on this excellent disc - good of Nielsen to compose two symphonies of exactly the right length for a CD! - they give the grateful listener one hour and twelve minutes of bracingly Nordic music-making courtesy of Blomstedt the Swede and his American orchestra.