Carl Nielsen - Symphony No. 1 in G minor, Op. 7 - Danish State Radio Orchestra / Thomas Jensen - Helios Overture - Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Jean Martinon - Symphony No. 2, Op. 16 "The Four Temperaments" - Little Suite for String Orchestra, Op. 1 - Tivoli Concert Symphony / Carl Garaguly - Recorded discussions of Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2 by Robert Simpson
In the coming time, I'll be uploading the complete Nielsen symphonies along with other orchestral works from Nielsen. Some of these recordings may be "familiar" ones - some possibly less so.
These uploads will include recorded discussions of each of Nielsen's six symphonies made during the mid-1970s by composer / Nielsen scholar (and champion) Robert Simpson for a box set of Nielsen's complete symphonies (London Symphony, Ole Schmidt - which could be a future upload since it's a very good collection indeed). Simpson conducts these discussions (employing recorded musical excerpts) with charm, humor, candor, insight and seriousness - and with listeners in mind not used to following scores. They are altogether worth having whether one is a die-hard Nielsen fanatic like me; wants to get a bit further into Nielsen's symphonies - or whether one basically doesn't know Nielsen from Grieg (they also come in very handy if you want to try to "convert" a music-listening friend who's never taken Nielsen very seriously).
Symphony No. 1 is taken from an excellent British Decca disc from the early 1950s - a "historical Nielsen recording" by now - with Thomas Jensen giving a brilliant, very dynamic and tightly-knit performance with the Danish State Radio Orchestra - all things considered a "model" performance (with very good Decca sound). I have to confess, though, that this recording reminds me quite a lot of Previn's later version with the London Symphony. On the other hand, Jensen tends to be more incisive and "to the point" - and a bit more more idiomatic. So, if you previously liked the 1967 Previn version of Nielsen's first symphony, maybe you'll come to prefer the earlier one from Jensen, as I have. Paired with Nielsen's first symphony is a very beautiful recording of the Helios Overture made 1966 by Jean Martinon and the Chicago Symphony.
"The Four Temperaments" (Symphony No. 2) is from a mid-1960s Vox recording of Carl Garaguly conducting the Tivoli Concert Symphony. Of all the versions (including some very good ones) I've heard of the Nielsen second symphony, this particular one keeps first place in my mind since the late 1960s; in fact, for me, it's one of the most "in every respect great" recordings I know of any music in terms of performance and sound. It is coupled (on the same disc) with Nielsen's Little Suite for String Orchestra.
Includes original covers and liner notes - and, of course, recorded discussions of Symphonies 1 and 2 by Robert Simpson (a short biography is included below). Simpson was awarded the Carl Nielsen Gold Medal in 1956 for his book "Carl Nielsen, Symphonist" published 1952. It is still very much worth reading.
LP transfers from material issued early 1950s - mid-1960s (Decca, Vox labels); Digital material recorded 1966 (RCA). Good, clean sound.
Robert (Wilfred Levick) Simpson (2 March 1921 – 21 November 1997) was an English composer and long-serving BBC producer and broadcaster.
He is best known for his orchestral and chamber music (including 11 symphonies and 15 string quartets), and for his writings on the music of Beethoven, Bruckner, Nielsen and Sibelius. He studied composition under Herbert Howells. Remarkably for a composer who was still alive, a Robert Simpson Society was formed in 1980 by individuals concerned that Simpson's music was unfairly neglected. The Society works to bring Simpson's music to a wider public by sponsoring recordings and live performances of his work, by issuing a journal and other publications, and by maintaining an archive.
Simpson was born in Leamington, Warwickshire, and died in Tralee, County Kerry, in the Republic of Ireland. His father, Robert Warren Simpson, was a descendent of Sir James Young Simpson, the Scottish pioneer of anaesthetics; his mother, Helena Hendrika Govaars, was the daughter of Gerrit Govaars, founder of the 'Leger des Heils'. Simpson studied at Westminster School. He was intended for a medical career and studied in London for two years before his determination to be a musician gained the upper hand. A conscientious objector in World War II, he served with an A.R.P. mobile surgical unit during the London Blitz, while taking lessons from Herbert Howells. Howells persuaded him to take the University of Durham Bachelor of Music degree and in 1952 he gained the further degree of Doctor of Music from that university, the submitted work being his First Symphony. After the war Simpson lectured extensively and founded the Exploratory Concerts Society; in 1951 he joined the music staff of the BBC and became one of its best-known and most respected music producers, remaining with the Corporation for nearly three decades. He had married Bessie Fraser in 1946; she died in 1981 and the following year he married Angela Musgrave, a fellow BBC employee and relative of composer Thea Musgrave.
In the latter part of his career as a BBC producer Simpson frequently clashed with the management of the organization. In the 1970s he was one of those - Hans Keller was another - who led a revolt against the proposed decommissioning of five of the eleven BBC orchestras. During the ensuing musicians' strike which caused the cancellation of the first several weeks of 1980's BBC Promenade Concerts Simpson chose to disregard BBC staff regulations and discuss the matter with a national newspaper; he then resigned from the Corporation, publicly alleging a 'degeneration of traditional BBC values in the scramble for ratings'. Had he remained silent for a few more months he would have been able to retire with a full pension, but his feeling was that such a course would have compromised his principles. Abominating the ethos of Thatcherite Britain, in 1986 he moved to Ireland, settling on Tralee Bay in Kerry. In 1991 he suffered a severe stroke during an English lecture tour, which caused damage to the thalamus that left him in debilitating pain for the remaining six years of his life.
Simpson's other great passions were astronomy (he was a member of the British Astronomical Association and – unusually for an amateur – was made a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society) and pacifism, specifically addressed in the title of his Tenth String Quartet, For Peace. He was awarded many honours, including the Carl Nielsen Gold Medal, 1956 (for his book Carl Nielsen, Symphonist, published 1952), and the Medal of Honor of the Bruckner Society of America, 1962; when offered the CBE, however, he refused it.