Carl Nielsen: Symphony No. 5

This article has been marked as in need of a revisit. That’s where I feel like I didn’t do the piece justice or have more to say (usually because I didn’t know it nearly well enough or didn’t have the right perspective). I’ll keep the original article for posterity, but publish a new version that will eventually be linked here for my new take on it.

performed by Gothenburg symphony orchestra under Neeme Järvi I like this from the beginning. The beginning of the first movement is very pleasant. I am a sucker for bassoons, and I love how the first movement grows into something less peaceful and almost military struggle-ish. Can’t write in real time. After having listened to the entire piece, I am in agreement with the information on Wikipedia about this symphony. The struggle between good and evil (or whatever struggle it is) is very clear here. It’s balanced, but dramatic and effective. It’s one of the most enjoyable first listens I can recall. That is not to say that it is saccharine or catchy in the way that some popular classical pieces may be. It is not classical pop by any stretch if the imagination. To an amateur who hasn’t any concept of the journey or ‘plot’ of a symphony, exciting or pretty music may be the only thing to enjoy. There is a clear struggle and ‘plot’ here, far more obvious than the key change and modulation in any old sonata-form style symphony. While I can’t point to specific themes or passages in his symphonies, I clearly recall enjoying them, especially number 2. With this one fresh in my mind, I can recall textures and orchestrations and things, a certain crispness and assertiveness in the piece. It is one I would look forward to sitting back and enjoying again. I did not find it as modern and shocking as the Swedish audience did in January of 1924 when they rushed for the exits and caused quite a stir, but then again, that was almost 90 years ago. It could have been shocking then, because by now we have been exposed to far more sonically shocking or potentially appalling literature. What would cause an audience at any symphony hall today to rush for the doors? I do appreciate the comments regarding this symphony (by Sir Simon Rattle?) as being a war symphony. Very enjoyable.


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