|Nielsen: Symphony No. 4, "The Inextinguishable" Op. 29, FS 76||Composer||1916|
|Nielsen: Flute Concerto, FS 119||Composer||1926|
|Nielsen: Saul og David, FS 25||Composer||1898-1901|
|Nielsen: Symphony No.2, "The Four Temperaments" Op.16||Composer||1901-1902|
|Nielsen: Symphony No. 5, Op. 50, FS 97||Composer||1920-1922|
|Nielsen: Concerto for Clarinet and orchestra, Op.57 FS 129||Composer||1928|
|Nielsen: Hymnus Amoris, Op.12 FS 21||Composer||1896|
|Nielsen: Symphony No.3, "Sinfonia Espansiva" Op.27 FS.60||Composer||1910-1911|
|Nielsen: Symphony No.6, FS 116||Composer||1924-1925|
Carl August Nielsen ( 9 June 1865 – 3 October 1931) was a Danish musician, conductor and violinist, widely recognized as his country's greatest composer. Brought up by poor but musically talented parents on the island of Funen, he demonstrated his musical abilities at an early age. He initially played in a military band before attending the Royal Danish Academy of Music| in Copenhagen from 1884 until December 1886. He premiered his Op. 1, Suite for Strings, in 1888, at the age of 23. The following year, Nielsen began a 16-year stint as a second violinist in the prestigious Royal Danish Orchestra under the conductor Johan Svendsen, during which he played in Giuseppe Verdi's Falstaff and Otello at their Danish premieres. In 1916, he took a post teaching at the Royal Academy and continued to work there until his death.
Although his symphonies, concertos and choral music are now internationally acclaimed, Nielsen's career and personal life were marked by many difficulties, often reflected in his music. The works he composed between 1897 and 1904 are sometimes ascribed to his "psychological" period, resulting mainly from a turbulent marriage with the sculptor Anne Marie Brodersen. Nielsen is especially noted for his six symphonies, his Wind Quintet and his concertos for violin, flute and clarinet. In Denmark, his opera Maskarade and many of his songs have become an integral part of the national heritage. His early music was inspired by composers such as Brahms and Grieg, but he soon developed his own style, first experimenting with progressive tonality and later diverging even more radically from the standards of composition still common at the time. Nielsen's sixth and final symphony, Sinfonia semplice, was written in 1924–25. He died from a heart attack six years later, and is buried in Vestre Cemetery, Copenhagen.
Nielsen maintained the reputation of an outsider during his lifetime, both in his own country and internationally. It was only later that his works firmly entered the international repertoire, accelerating in popularity from the 1960s through Leonard Bernstein and others. In Denmark, Nielsen's reputation was sealed in 2006 when three of his compositions were listed by the Ministry of Culture amongst the twelve greatest pieces of Danish music. For many years, he appeared on the Danish hundred-kroner banknote. The Carl Nielsen Museum in Odense documents his life and that of his wife. Between 1994 and 2009 the Royal Danish Library, sponsored by the Danish government, completed the Carl Nielsen Edition, freely available online, containing background information and sheet music for all Nielsen's works, many of which had not been previously published. In 2015, the 150th anniversary of Nielsen's birth, numerous celebratory performances of his works are scheduled.
Although Finland's extraordinary Jean Sibelius may be foremost among Nordic composers, his contemporary, Carl Nielsen -- best known for six highly original symphonies and simple popular songs -- holds an honored place as Denmark's foremost post-Romantic musical ambassador, and has found considerable acclaim amongst musicians and audiences alike.
A painter by profession, Nielsen's father spent as much or more energy on his secondary activities as a violinist, and it was in this way that young Carl received his first musical instruction. At 14 Carl auditioned for a position with a military wind ensemble at Odense (he was hired as a bugler, despite his lack of formal training on the instrument). During a visit to Copenhagen in 1883, Nielsen was introduced to composer Niels W. Gade, who suggested that the young musician enroll at the Conservatory for serious studies. During Nielsen's three years at the Conservatory (1884-1886) his primary subjects were violin and theory, and at no time did he actually receive formal instruction in composition. Nevertheless, in 1888 his Suite for Strings, Op.1 received a successful debut in Copenhagen.
In 1889 Nielsen was hired as a violinist at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, a position he retained until 1905 (though in 1891 he journeyed to Paris, where he met and married Danish sculptress Anne Marie Brodersen). During the 1890s Nielsen composed prolifically, and much of his output was put into print. By 1903 he had signed a contract with the Wilhelm Hansen publishing firm in Copenhagen, effectively ending his tenure with the Royal Theatre (though he would not officially resign for two more years). His career as a conductor began in 1908 when he accepted a staff position with the Royal Theatre Orchestra. From 1916 until his death in 1931 (of heart disease), he taught at the Royal Danish Conservatory.
Nielsen's music is highly individual in both content and construction, although only the symphonies and the three concertos (violin, flute, and clarinet) have earned places in the repertory outside Denmark (where many of his choral pieces have become part of the national heritage). Each of the three concertos is a worthy contribution to its instrument's literature, though perhaps the Clarinet Concerto deserves the most attention. While starting out from the perspective of Classical form and harmony, his music later developed into an "extended" tonal and even atonal language, born of his highly expressive melodic style.
Like his colleague Sibelius, Nielsen poured his finest material into the symphonic mold. From the early First Symphony of 1892 (which is one of the first such works to begin and end in different keys), to the famous Fourth Symphony ("The Inextinguishable," a reference to the enduring power of both life and music), each is a noble testament to a remarkable man's view of the world around him.