NIELSEN Flute Concerto. Clarinet Concerto. Aladdin Suite
Paavo Järvi presides over a splendidly stylish and invigorating Nielsen anthology featuring the Philharmonia at the top of its game throughout. Both concerto performances emanate from concerts at London’s Royal Festival Hall and deserve the warmest plaudits.
The orchestra’s principal clarinet, Mark van de Wiel, genuinely shines in the sparky 1928 essay that Nielsen wrote for his friend Aage Oxenvad, finding just the right balance between tenderness and irascibility, while also displaying a technical mastery, subtly variegated tone and intrepid range of dynamic. (There’s also an excellent contribution from the snare drum, which has an important sparring role.) Composed in 1926 and revised the following January, the Flute Concerto bears a dedication to Holger Gilbert-Jespersen, who made a matchless recording of it in April 1954 with Thomas Jensen and the Danish State RSO for Decca (12/54, now restored on Australian Eloquence). Here, too, the Philharmonia’s principal flute, Samuel Coles, proves a scrupulously sensitive and marvellously quick-witted protagonist, and he enjoys exemplary support from his colleagues under Järvi’s attentive lead.
Last comes a strongly characterised reading (set down in Southwark’s Henry Wood Hall) of the orchestral suite from Nielsen’s incidental score to the 1919 Copenhagen revival of Adam Oehlenschläger’s adaptation of Aladdin. Not all of Järvi’s tempos are conventional but the orchestral playing is admirable and felicitous touches abound: the ‘Chinese Dance’ has a delectable point and friskiness about it, while the exuberant concluding ‘Negro Dance’ fairly bounds along.
First-rate annotation (Andrew Mellor) and production values (Andrew Cornall and Jonathan Stokes) add to the attractions of a thoroughly recommendable release.