Saturday, January 11, 2014

Nielsen: Symphony No. 6 (Thomas Jensen)

Cover design by George Maas
The symphonies of Carl Nielsen have, over the past fifty years or so, entered the international concert repertory, thanks in part to the advocacy of conductors with international reputations like Barbirolli, Bernstein and Herbert Blomstedt.  Sixty years ago, however, this wasn't the case; it seems that only Danish conductors and Danish orchestras were recording them.  But what recordings!  There is an intensity and commitment about them that later recordings, for all their relative polish, can't quite match.  The first conductor to record a Nielsen symphony was Thomas Jensen (1898-1963) - the Second, in 1944, for HMV.  Jensen had studied music theory with the composer, and played the cello under his baton.  Here he is leading that Cinderella of the Nielsen symphonic canon, the wonderfully wacky, anything-but-simple Sinfonia Semplice, in its first recording:

Nielsen: Symphony No. 6 ("Sinfonia Semplice")
Danish State Radio Orchestra conducted by Thomas Jensen
Recorded June 17-19, 1952
Mercury MG-10137, one LP record
Link (FLAC files, 80.34 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 55.77 MB)


  1. Thanks for posting this delightful work. What a pity Nielsen never recorded
    his own music; he lived well into the electrical era, Wonder if Danish Radio
    recorded any broadcasts!

    1. Yes, he lived six years into the electrical era, but he had a major heart attack in 1925 which stopped his performing career entirely, I think (though he continued to compose until the end).

    2. IIRC there is (or was) a private cylinder of Nielsen performing one of his piano compositions. The cylinder was so fragile that it had not been played for fear of damage. I remember, in the early dial up internet days, a site that talked about a 'laser strand' pickup device, tracking at prox 1/50th the weight of a conventional diamond stylus, being used to transcribe the cylinder. There is a pdf that briefly discussed the item. Google search for: "laser carl nielsen edison cylinder" and the pdf should be the first hit & can be downloaded. Now...if we can only hear it!!

    3. Bill, that's fascinating! The other musician the article mentions as participating on the cylinders, the violinist Telmanyi, became Nielsen's son-in-law in 1918. This would seem a bit late for cylinders but then again, I suppose cylinders were the only means of home recording during the acoustic era...

  2. I don't know this work at all - thank you for persuading me to hear it now, Bryan.