Nielsen: Complete Piano Music, Vol. 1: Five Piano Pieces, Op. 3; Symphonic Suite, Op. 8; Humoresque-Bagatelles, Op. 11; Chaconne, Op. 32

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COMPOSERS: Nielsen
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Complete Piano Music, Vol. 1: Five Piano Pieces, Op. 3; Symphonic Suite, Op. 8; Humoresque-Bagatelles, Op. 11; Chaconne, Op. 32
PERFORMER: Peter Seivewright (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553574
A more or less chronological survey of the Danish composer’s utterly individual piano music finds rich contrasts ready-made. Of the three earliest sets of pieces here, the pounding chords of the admirable if not exactly lovable Symphonic Suite form a sheer granite rockface between the apparent simplicities of the Five Piano Pieces, Op. 3, and the neat childhood anecdotes of the six Humoresque-Bagatelles. It’s a pity that Peter Seivewright’s straightforward delivery never quite reaches out to the subtler dynamics and whimsy of the 11 easy pieces, nor to the bravura implied by the return of the Suite’s opening strut (fortissimo pomposo, writes Nielsen, but here it’s exactly the same second time around).

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Austerity suits the sterner stuff of two masterpieces from 1916. Seivewright is unswerving on the magnificent Chaconne’s concentrated path from Bachian beginnings to chromatic dislocation and hard-worn serenity, and if the Busoni-like complexities of the fourth in a daunting set of variations momentarily fox him, the awe-inspiring climax of the work makes its impact. Nielsen pictured it as the defiance of a man ‘fighting with his back to an iceberg’; the music is every inch as weird and elusive as the image. David Nice