Nielsen: Complete piano music: Symphonic Suite; A Dream about ‘Silent Night’; Festival Prelude for the New Century; Piano Music for Young and Old etc

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COMPOSERS: Nielsen
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Nielsen
WORKS: Complete piano music: Symphonic Suite; A Dream about ‘Silent Night’; Festival Prelude for the New Century; Piano Music for Young and Old etc
PERFORMER: Martin Roscoe (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67591-2

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Apart from Grieg, no Scandinavian composer has written for the piano with more individuality and insight than Nielsen. Right from the very outset of his Five Piano Pieces, Op. 3, there is no doubt that his is an individual voice. The first emerges from a Schumannesque innocence to speak with personal accents, but all five are strong on humour and character. Nielsen’s greatest piano music is clustered into a period of four years (1916-20) with his final thoughts in the medium, the Three Pieces, Op. 59 of 1928 being composed in the immediate proximity of his Clarinet Concerto, music that already breathes the air of other planets. With the exception of Leif Ove Andsnes, no pianist of international standing has championed it on record, and apart from John Ogdon and John McCabe it has been the almost exclusive preserve of Nordic artists. True, the American scholar Mina Miller, who edited the autographs for the Hansen edition, recorded a complete survey in 1995 – also for Hyperion. But although Schnabel was the dedicatee of the Suite, Op. 45, he never broke a lance for it on the international scene. The Suite is not only Nielsen’s greatest keyboard work but arguably the mightiest ever written in Scandinavia. Martin Roscoe is right inside this music and guides us through its marvels with great subtlety and authority. His is the most eloquent account since the pioneering set by Arne Skjøld Rasmussen (Vox). Hyperion gives him vivid and natural recorded sound and there are outstanding notes by Daniel Grimley. Robert Layton