Nielsen: Symphony No. 4 (Inextinguishable); Symphony No. 6 (Sinfonia semplice)

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COMPOSERS: Nielsen
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Symphony No. 4 (Inextinguishable); Symphony No. 6 (Sinfonia semplice)
PERFORMER: Gothenburg SO/Neeme Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: CD 600 DDD
The ‘Inextinguishable’ in the title of Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony refers to the composer’s own thoughts: ‘Music is life, and, like it, inextinguishable.’ It is a symphony dedicated to the ‘elemental will of life’. The life force according to Neeme Järvi is characteristically flamboyant. In highlighting the dramatic elements in the score he has left much of the lyricism to fend for itself. By comparison, the Royal Scottish Orchestra recording under the direction of the late Bryden Thomson (on Chandos) seems positively subdued.

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The Gothenburg SO only just stands up to the scrutiny of a recording that is sharply focused and a little close. In particular, the tone from the lower strings is rather dry and woody. But Järvi’s searing climaxes and capricious speed changes bring to this essay in pure music a subjectivity and showmanship that effortlessly hold your attention.

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The Sinfonia semplice is a misnomer if ever there was one. The opening movement is possessed of a surface simplicity that is obliterated by the enigma of the other three. Here too Järvi makes the most of any fragments, however short-lived, of pathos or humour, but the struggle to make it all sound convincing is in vain. Christopher Lambton