New York Phil to record Nielsen cycle for Dacapo

Martin Cullingford10th Jun 2011
Alan Gilbert: affinity with Nordic music (photo: Pascal Perich)Alan Gilbert: affinity with Nordic music (photo: Pascal Perich)

The New York Philharmonic, conducted by its music director Alan Gilbert, will record Carl Nielsen’s complete symphonies and instrumental concertos for Dacapo Records, the state-funded national label of Denmark. In an act of cultural engagement typical of the Danish royal family, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark joined representatives from the orchestra and Dacapo at the Lincoln Center this afternoon to announce details of the so-called ‘Nielsen Project’.

The first disc – a recording of the Second and Third Symphonies – will be issued in Autumn 2012, with the final instalment appearing in 2015, the 150th anniversary of the Danish composer’s birth. Danish violinist Nikolaj Znaider will record the Violin Concerto, with Robert Langevin and Ricardo Morales as soloists for the Flute and Clarinet Concertos respectively.

Gilbert developed an affinity with Nordic music and musicians during his eight years as music director of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra in Sweden. In January this year he conducted Nielsen’s Second Symphony with the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall and will continue to programme the symphonies in concert. ‘Carl Nielsen’s music is so distinctly Danish…it has a craggy edge that is characteristic of life in the high North,’ Gilbert said. ‘I’m sure Nielsen’s time has now come.’

His comment comes as the London Symphony Orchestra prepare to add to their ongoing Nielsen symphony cycle on disc with live recordings of the First and Third Symphonies, and as UK orchestras increasingly look beyond the Violin Concerto when programming the Danish composer’s music in concert. A new study from Oxford University’s Daniel Grimley, published imminently, will also attempt to reassess Nielsen’s position in musical history, casting him as a vital precursor to Modernism.  

Dacapo will issue the recordings on Super Audio CD and Pure Audio Blu-ray formats, as well as offering recordings for download. Such a partnership – with a non-Nordic orchestra of such high international standing – is an unusual one from the boutique Copenhagen-based label, known for manufacturing products of distinct physical as well as musical beauty. 

Andrew Mellor

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