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NIELSEN, C.: Symphonies Nos. 2, "The 4 Temperaments" and 3, "Sinfonia espansiva" (New York Philharmonic, Gilbert)

Dacapo 6.220623

   Australian Hi-Fi, January 2016
   Gramophone, March 2015
   MusicWeb International, December 2013
   Enjoy the Music, July 2013
   Fanfare, March 2013
   MusicWeb International, January 2013
   American Record Guide, January 2013
   The New York Times, December 2012
   MusicWeb International, December 2012, October 2012
   MusicWeb International, October 2012
   Audiophile Audition, October 2012
   Cinemusical, October 2012, October 2012, October 2012, October 2012
   Classical Music Sentinel, October 2012
   Crescenta Valley Weekly, September 2012
   The Absolute Sound, September 2008

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John Sunier
Australian Hi-Fi, January 2016

Wow…what a treasure trove! …Colin Davis was quite unlike a number of conductors who see their swan song years dovetailing into slow, even lethargic reminiscences hell-bent on milking every bit of meaning out of every not in every bar; in fact, he seems as full of energy here as he ever was. The SACD sound is stunning—as good as I have ever heard on LSO Live—and the best sounding Nielsen symphonies ever. © 2016 Australian Hi-Fi

David Patrick Stearns
Gramophone, March 2015

This recording has just about everything that all the better Nielsen recordings have, but with an extra-thoughtful use of orchestral colour—something that could perhaps only be accomplished by musicians from a world-class orchestra. © 2015 Gramophone

Dominy Clements
MusicWeb International, December 2013

Nielsen’s symphonies are inspired and life-affirming and this is an inspired and life-affirming recording; ’nuff said. © 2013 MusicWeb International

Max Westler
Enjoy the Music, July 2013

If you don’t know these works, these thrilling, gorgeous-sounding performances will provide the perfect introduction. Those already addicted to Nielsen will also find much to enjoy here. Gilbert’s freshness and vitality will make you fall in love with these works all over again. I would…suggest that you be patient and wait for the remainder of Gilbert’s cycle to appear. Judging from this first installment, it promises to be something very special. © 2013 Enjoy the Music Read complete review

Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, March 2013

The stage depth and breadth of Dacapo’s multichannel recording is awesome, and the engineers have caught the New York Philharmonic on a very good day.

…this is unquestionably a very fine effort by a young conductor still relatively new to the podium of one of the world’s great orchestras, and a mightily impressive recording. If it’s the beginning of a complete Nielsen cycle, it’s off to a better than good start. © 2013 Fanfare Read complete review

Dominy Clements
MusicWeb International, January 2013

…this recording from Alan Gilbert with the New Your Philharmonic seems to press some universal button of wild acclaim which sweeps the bulk of the competition into a cocked hat.

The pacing of each movement is done superbly well in these performances. Gilbert doesn’t go for thrill-seeking speed, and tumult and drama are held in check as often as they are gloriously unleashed. Crucial moments such as the vocal contributions in the Andante pastorale of the Symphony No. 3 are done very well indeed, and these passages of sheer beauty are all the more affecting for that ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’ sense of power delivered by previous Allegro espansivo, to provide just one example. Righteous praise has been heaped on the brass in these performances, but equal acclaim is deserved for the strings, who have both weight and passion in the sound as well as all of the sheen and refinement you could wish. In the end, it is Nielsen’s inspiring themes which win, for while it is the orchestra which is such an admirable vehicle, it is marvellously heroic material such as the third symphony’s Finale and the openings of both works which make you want to stand up and fly through the room for the sheer joy of it all.

You can’t have the light without the dark, and Nielsen’s more sombre moods, such as the Andante malincolico third movement of the Symphony No. 2 plumb depths of which some recordings can only dream. Gilbert draws the tempo out here a little more than most, to the point you feel he might have gone too far when the wind solos start. As the music unfolds its strength takes hold overwhelmingly, and you can’t imagine wanting to hear it any other way by the end.

With cracking SACD sound, a live ‘vibe’ to the performances, the superb Avery Fisher Hall acoustic and a band of some of the best players in the world at the very top of their game this is a disc to have and to hold from this day forth etc. If you have yet to experience Nielsen’s symphonies then this a terrific place to start a relationship which will last and enrich for a lifetime. © MusicWeb International Read complete review

Roger Hecht
American Record Guide, January 2013

…I would not be without this newcomer from New York. I look forward to the rest of the series with great interest. © 2013 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

Anthony Tommasini
The New York Times, December 2012

The Best Classical Music Recordings of 2012

Alan Gilbert is in the midst of an exciting project with the New York Philharmonic to perform and record Carl Nielsen’s complete symphonies and concertos. The first release in the series is terrific, with pulsing and insightful accounts of the Second Symphony (“The Four Temperaments”) and the Third (“Sinfonia Espansiva”). © 2012 The New York Times

Oleg Ledeniov
MusicWeb International, December 2012

A disc I just can’t stop listening to! The old lethargic New York Philharmonic is gone, and this is a highest-voltage reading of two striking symphonies. Oh, the brass! The conducting is inspired, and the result is completely magical and stunning. Sorry, have to run back to listen to it! © 2012 MusicWeb International

Graham Williams, October 2012

Dacapo’s new Nielsen project gets off to a most promising start with this coupling of the 2nd and 3rd symphonies in performances that place this SACD amongst the best available versions on record and will be a first choice for many collectors.

The plush playing of the NYPO for Alan Gilbert…is beyond reproach and the recording team have managed to transform the problematic acoustic of the Avery Fisher Hall into something much more than acceptable…the sound does possess not only a marvellous clarity—ensuring that Nielsen’s instrumental lines are always sharply etched—but also an immediacy; apparent from the firm timpani sound and the especially thrilling rasp of the brass.

…this SACD can be warmly recommended, and I am eager to hear Gilbert’s interpretations of the remaining four symphonies as and when they appear. © 2012 Read complete review

Jack Lawson
MusicWeb International, October 2012

This artistic triumph is the first instalment of The Carl Nielsen Project - a Danish-American enterprise following the new Carl Nielsen Edition.

…Dacapo delivers the performance and the sound of a lifetime. The sound is monumental in scale and magnificent in fine detail; it is natural and smooth rather than etched despite its clean and clear transients.

Alan Gilbert interprets Nielsen’s Third Symphony in a way I have never heard before and it is a reading which makes it seem inevitable and insightful. I will now support my strong advice to buy this recording and try to position it with its rivals in the following appraisal.

This Symphony No. 3 is simply the most authoritative, penetrating and fresh recording available today. It is free of any shortcomings or mannerisms. Everybody contributes the best of his and her ability and experience, from the sleeve-notes and the back-room boys to the project leader Mr Alan Gilbert who should be awarded Danish National honours. The disc should receive MusicWeb International’s Recording of the Month. It is an essential purchase which will delight you. I don’t think that this great Nielsen man and his team are going to disappoint us in the next parts of the Nielsen Project. I can hardly wait.

Give your Hi-Fi a blowout and your ears a treat. In these gloomy times, it’s good to experience Nielsen’s “hymn to the joy of work” now available in its fullness. It’s one of the finest CDs ever produced … period. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Robert Moon
Audiophile Audition, October 2012

…Gilbert’s performance is emotionally riveting [in the Second Symphony]: a dramatic and vital first movement; the plaintive solemnity of the second, the heartfelt nobility of the third and a buoyantly optimistic finale.

The more reflective and broadly philosophical nature of the Third Symphony, “Sinfonia Espansiva,” lends itself well to the Gilbert’s lyrical and flowing treatment. The reverberant sound here is more appropriate, especially in Nielsen’s ethereal use of a wordless soprano and tenor in the second movement, which often gets lost in live performances. The gorgeous second movement is especially effective because of Gilbert’s lighter, emotionally generous viewpoint, and the third movement is happily evocative of a dance that celebrates life. The majesty of the final movement—a paean to Nielsen’s love of nature and life, is triumphantly expressed. Gilbert’s performance is magnificent and, here, the SACD sound is perfectly judged and appropriate.

These symphonies are two of the greatest that the twentieth century has to offer © 2012 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

Cinemusical, October 2012

The second symphony’s title “The Four Temperaments” comes from the Greek philosopher Hippocrates who posited a theory about the four “temperaments”…Each movement bears a descriptive tempo designation to represent each of the four temperaments: collerico, flemmatico, malincolico (sic), and sanguineo. On display in the work, apart from rather interesting musical depictions, is Nielsen’s interesting harmonic usage that often moves into areas that are unusual and generally unexpected. Listen in this symphony especially to the way Gilbert moves from those huge rich orchestral moments to more sparsely-orchestrated solo sections which allows the ensemble to show off players individually and as larger units. The strings too bring a special edge to the intensity of the first movement.

The opening movement [of the “Sinfonia Espansiva”] features a primary melodic idea that moves through a variation technique with many surprising rich harmonic ideas that provide interest along the way. The second movement is a pastorale that in a slower tempo illustrates the way the composer likes to slowly build into his melodic material. In this case, we have a symphonic depiction of the natural world with ideas that tend to have an almost melancholy feel further enhanced by the appearance of vocalises by soprano and baritone solos…It is the emotional heart of this work. The final movement moves through gorgeously huge orchestral passages and more subtle solo lines and it receives a superbly engaging and exciting performance that builds beautifully in its final moments.

[Alan Gilbert’s] performances here are simply masterful and the [New York Philharmonic] has never sounded better. The relaxed atmosphere of these performances brings an almost innate joy in the music making that result in fabulous performances. The engineers have also managed to make the most of the location giving the orchestra proper balance and imaging that can sometimes be lost in Avery Fisher Hall.  © 2012 Cinemusical Read complete review

James Manheim, October 2012

Carl Nielsen’s symphonies have been rare finds in American symphonic recording catalogs. Leonard Bernstein programmed them occasionally, and perhaps that was the inspiration for the New York Philharmonic and conductor Alan Gilbert with this intriguing release. The reverse chronological order—the Symphony No. 3 dates from 1912, ten years after its predecessor—works well, for the Symphony No. 3 is the weightier work…the work certainly is expansive, with a great variety of orchestral tones and an eerie wordless vocal duet that comes in toward the end of the second movement. The New York Philharmonic…sound terrific here. The real highlight is the Symphony No. 2, which neatly merges Nielsen’s big symphonic idiom with the flair for comic drama he showed in the opera Maskarade. With Dacapo’s typically clear sound, this is a fine addition to symphonic libraries. © 2012 Read complete review

Robert Benson, October 2012

…the New York Philharmonic is in top form under the dynamic direction of Alan Gilbert, with no loss of momentum, even in the pastoral interludes of Symphony No. 3. Audio is full and satisfying… © 2012 Read complete review

David Hurwitz, October 2012

The New York Philharmonic is a powerhouse orchestra, Nielsen is a powerhouse symphonist, and Alan Gilbert revels in the music’s energy and dynamism. The sheer volume of sound that the players produced was stunning, literally. Fortunately, Dacapo’s engineers have managed to achieve a very natural and lifelike ensemble balance in these recordings, without in any way compromising the guts and gusto of the playing.

Gilbert reveals a genuine affinity for the music, and Nielsen’s athleticism suits the orchestra very well indeed. If this series keeps up as it has begun, it’s going to be stupendous. © 2012 Read complete review

Jean-Yves Duperron
Classical Music Sentinel, October 2012

…Carl Nielsen’s music sounds more like a Nordic extension of Johannes Brahms. Standard, well structured, four-movement sonata form symphonies, but with a sound and character distinctively Danish.

A first movement jam-packed with inventive thematic material, manipulated, developed and transformed in many interesting ways. The material goes through many varied and fascinating permutation…This leads into a powerfully evocative slow movement fueled by distant echoes of human voices, searing strings, and desolate winds. Its sustained final chord from the horn section leaves you with a feeling of blissful calm. And of course, the final movement’s main theme, the kind of big tune that sticks in your mind, is what makes this symphony so memorable and endearing. It’s like the main theme of Beethoven’s Ninth—simple but magical.

Conductor Alan Gilbert leads a stunning rendition aided by full support from all the musicians of the New York Philharmonic who seem to find meaning in each and every note. Polish and raw energy rolled into one. The Symphony No. 2, Op. 16 “The Four Temperaments” which rounds out this disc, enjoys the same dedicated playing and charged interpretation. The electric energy and rhythmic bounce of its final movement leaps off the page. © 2012 Classical Music Sentinel Read complete review

Ted Ayala
Crescenta Valley Weekly, September 2012

As soon as the first note pierced through the introduction…it was clear that this was going to be an extraordinary Nielsen 3rd. The flickerings of nervous energy that animate the composer’s music are here conveyed with masterly assurance.

Equally impressive is his manner with the “Andante pastorale”—from the rapturously quiet opening to the moment when the composer inserts a wordless vocalise for soprano and baritone (sung superbly here by Erin Morley and Joshua Hopkins), conjuring an almost cinematic evocation of the idyllic Funen landscapes of the composer’s youth.

Nor are the scents of hay and earth ever far away in the conductor’s hearty take on the scherzo, with gleefully gurgling clarinets and powerful brass at the fore. With the finale…Gilbert brings together his sense of natural pacing, control and carefully terraced dynamics and crowns his performance with a rendering of the coda that is both grand and unbuttoned.

Just as fine is his performance of the composer’s “Symphony No. 2.” The crisp thrust of the opening movement is conveyed vividly and effortlessly by Gilbert…his attention to dynamic shading and color are superior…

At the heart of this record is the New York Philharmonic, sounding better today under Gilbert than it ever has. Their strings today—and the orchestra as a whole—possess a warm, finely blended tone that has a Central European flavor ideal for Nielsen.

The engineering by Dacapo, with its well-placed perspective, depth, and presence, is outstanding.

Other great recordings of these symphonies can be found…Gilbert’s recording sits alongside with the very best recordings of these works. But if pressed to choose only one recording, the listener can safely opt for Gilbert. It is a remarkable recording sonically and interpretively—and a magnificent testament to the talents of Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic. © 2012 Crescenta Valley Weekly Read complete review

The Absolute Sound, September 2008

The first movement is a divine waltz; the third is restless but full of grandeur. The Second Symphony, subtitled The Four Temperaments, depicts Medieval character types. The NYP plays it persuasively; the Allegro Collerico is suitably grouchy, the Andante Malincolico gloomy but not troubling. The finale, Allegro Sanguineo, shows the Philharmonic at the top of its game—energetic and engaged. © 2012 The Absolute Sound

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