Picks and Pans Review: Nielsen: String Quintet; Two Preludes for Solo Violin, Op. 52 & Op. 48
updated 02/08/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 02/08/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST
Carl Nielsen's small but first-rate oeuvre got a boost in the '60s when Leonard Bernstein began championing his work. Yet the Danish composer, who was born in 1865 on the same Baltic island (Fyn) as Hans Christian Andersen, is still unfamiliar to many listeners. He shouldn't be. Nielsen was an artist on the edge of late-19th-century romanticism and the freer forms of the 20th century. He came from peasant stock and, while rarely drawing directly from folk themes, stamped his compositions with a characteristically Danish, fanciful warmth. The String Quintet is an early work (1888), combining an almost Mozartean liveliness with a melodic beauty as delicate as Scandinavia's evening light. On side two, Peder Elbõk, co-founder of the 18-year-old Carl Nielsen String Quartet, excels in the intricate solo Preludes, especially the Op. 48 of 1923, an extended work (18 minutes) that packs more than a few emotional surprises. Those who find this LP rewarding may want to turn next to Nielsen's symphonies. Especially worthwhile are the Third and Fifth in Bernstein's versions.