Nielsen: Symphony No. 4 (Inextinguishable); Hymnus amoris; Little Suite

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Nielsen
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Symphony No. 4 (Inextinguishable); Hymnus amoris; Little Suite
PERFORMER: Barbara Bonney (soprano), John Mark Ainsley, Lars Pedersen (tenor), Michael W Hansen (baritone), Bo Anker Hansen (bass); Copenhagen Boys Choir, Danish National RSO & Choir/Ulf Schirmer
CATALOGUE NO: 452 486-2
This Inextinguishable bodes well for the hard-working Schirmer’s long-term partnership with the Danes. Seismic details are memorably etched, earth meets fire in well-balanced ensembles and the line of tension holds right through to the scherzo. Like Rattle, Schirmer dares to encourage dynamics on the verge of audibility: given the recording’s natural ambience and handsome presence, it just about works. The only pity is the finale: the performance peaks at the scything climax of the slow movement, after which deliberation gains the upper hand. There must be some precedent for Schirmer’s sustained mf on the final bar rather than the usual crescendo, but it sounds as unconvincing as that long-discredited fade to the last chord in Schubert’s Great C major Symphony.

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The programme – wisely, given that Decca already has Blomstedt’s successful Nielsen symphonies cycle – gives us a rounded portrait of the composer (and few can boast so distinctively fresh an Op. 1 as Nielsen with his not-so-little Suite). The charm and sweep of his singular ‘Hymn to Love’ in all phases of life are certainly there, though orchestra and chorus sometimes lack focus – not a problem in the symphony. The soloists, Ainsley especially, cope admirably with their long, burgeoning phrases. David Nice