Nielsen: Clarinet Concerto; Pan & Syrinx; Love and the Poet; Little Suite for strings

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LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Clarinet Concerto; Pan & Syrinx; Love and the Poet; Little Suite for strings
PERFORMER: Walter Boeykens (clarinet)Beethoven Academie/Jan Caeyers
During the Twenties Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) planned a series of concertos for the members of the Danish Wind Quintet. He completed only the two featured on the Salonen recording, which show the most thorough understanding of the solo instruments. They combine virtuoso display with tender lyricism, in a uniquely imaginative style, and are the highlights of this disc, brilliantly played. Yet Boeykens’s performance, on an altogether more intimate scale, is equally fine.


The lyric-humoresque Springtime on Funen (1921) could hardly be more different; this is Nielsen at his most charming, developing with tender affection the folk imagery of his native environment. But though the performance is skilfully managed, the solo singing is not always distinguished enough to achieve a fully poetic expression.


The opening of Salonen’s An Imaginary Journey to the Faeroe Islands is barely audible, emphasising his preference for extremes of tempo and dynamic. Of these contrasted smaller works, the most individual is the ‘nature scene’ Pan and Syrinx, while the opera Saul and David, written some 20 years earlier, deserves to be in the international repertoire. The stirring and noble Prelude to Act II, which the Swedish orchestra plays with gloriously full tone, makes an ideal introduction to Nielsen’s art. And the same might be said for the delightful Little Suite for Strings, splendidly done on the Beethoven Academie’s highly successful disc. Terry Barfoot