COMPOSERS: Carl Nielsen
ALBUM TITLE: Carl Nielsen: The New York Philharmonic Conducted by Alan Gilbert
WORKS: Violin Concerto; Flute Concerto; Clarinet Concerto
PERFORMER: Nikolaj Znaider (violin), Robert Langevin (flute), Anthony McGill (clarinet); New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert
CATALOGUE NO: 6.220556 (hybrid CD/SACD)
This disc – also available as part of a four-disc set with the symphonies – contains all three of Nielsen’s concertos. There’s that for his own instrument, the violin (1911/12), and those for flute (1926) and clarinet (1928), all he achieved of a project to write concertos for all the members of the Copenhagen Wind Quintet, portraying their personalities and the characters of their instruments.
In the Violin Concerto Nikolaj Znaider, sweet and slender in tone, is equal to all the work’s ferocious technical demands. He treats the first movement’s Bach-inspired cadenzas with convincing spontaneity, and dances his way delightfully through the Rondo finale. It’s an exemplary performance, enhanced by wonderfully expressive oboe playing in the central slow movement. Indeed, the quality of the New York Philharmonic’s woodwind principals is evident throughout the disc. Robert Langevin is nimble and elegant in the Flute Concerto, seeing off the challenge of the clumsy trombone in the finale with aplomb. Anthony McGill is brilliantly virtuosic in the Clarinet Concerto, similarly riding out the persistent interventions of the side-drum; but he’s a little too mellifluous, underplaying the many fierce accents with which Nielsen characterised the original soloist as irascible and hot-tempered. Anthony Burton