Nielsen: rial from autograph); Three Piano Pieces, Op. 59; Fantasy Pieces for Oboe and Piano, Op. 2; Fantasy Pieces for Flute and Piano; Serenata in vano; Canto serioso; Fantasy for Clarinet and Piano; Allegretto for Two Recorders

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Nielsen
LABELS: Meridian
WORKS: rial from autograph); Three Piano Pieces, Op. 59; Fantasy Pieces for Oboe and Piano, Op. 2; Fantasy Pieces for Flute and Piano; Serenata in vano; Canto serioso; Fantasy for Clarinet and Piano; Allegretto for Two Recorders
PERFORMER: New London Chamber Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: CDE 84580

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At the very least this disc is a valuable reminder that there was much more to Nielsen than powerfully single-minded symphonies. The range of music included here may surprise even those who think they know this composer. The two Fantasy Pieces for oboe and piano form a very attractive divertissement which never quite lead where you first expect.

For all its brevity, the Serenata in vano is one of those comedy turns that manages to hint at deeper things. Then there are the two masterpieces: the justly well-known Wind Quintet and the perplexingly neglected Three Piano Pieces – imaginative and idiosyncratic piano writing and just as indicative of a deeply original mind as any of the large scale works. The last two are particularly well played. 

Pianist Michael Dussek sounds like he’s taken time to think his way inside this music – not quite a match for Leif Ove Andsnes but still very creditable. And the Quintet itself is played with winning charm and a strong sense of coherence. Only the finale sounds under-characterised, but it’s so neatly rounded off that not many listeners will mind. 

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The cultured and characterful Vienna Wind Quintet recording on Nimbus remains the best recent version, but that doesn’t offer such a generous and variegated Nielsen portrait. This new CD even features three alternative versions of passages from the Quintet – no revelations there, though the original ending with the cor anglais might provoke a few thoughts. Stephen Johnson