Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra

Carl Nielsen: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 5

Danish master Carl Nielsen pulls no punches in his boldly insightful symphonies. Described as a conservative, Nielsen actually was more of a romantic realist; his soaring, eloquent music exists on many levels. Psychologically complex, the musical language must be straightforward. Take the dramatic Symphony No. 5, which premiered in 1922. The music is imaginative and glorious, but what else happens? A deliberately uncertain opening leads to an errant snare drum. A rhythmic “dictator” tries to take over the music. Some instruments join in, while others resist. A gigantic battle ensues, and victory is not always certain. No wonder Nielsen wrote, “Patriotism has become a spiritual syphilis that devours the brains and grins out through empty eye sockets with moronic hate!” This great music defeats the drums!