Ten CDs bring together the works of one of the most prominent Danish composers, as performed by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and a variety of vocal and instrumental soloists. Includes the entirety of six symphonies, plus concertos for clarinet, violin, and flute; a wind quintet; piano works; and more.
The six symphonies were recorded between 1973 and 1975, and for their time were the best available recordings of Nielsen's music. They constitute the bulk of this 2008 box set, and though two smaller sets of the symphonies and the concertos were issued by EMI in 2007, this seven-disc compendium provides much more music at a comparable cost.
Janiva Magness hasn't recorded any of her own compositions since she cut "Good Car" on It Takes One to Know One, her 1997 debut. Here she makes up for lost time with three compelling co-writes with producer David Darling. The tunes are some of the most potent on an album with no shortage of powerful material. There's a hint of Stax in the arrangement of "There It Is," the nasty kiss-off that opens the set. Darling's gritty guitar and Matt Teco's drums provide an ominous stomping rhythm to set off Magness' snarling vocal. When she sings, "I never thought I'd wanna hurt a man so bad," it sends chills down your spine. "I Won't Cry" visits the same heartbroken territory, but with a quiet intensity. Magness dips into her throaty mid-range to profess, "I get cut and I might bleed, but I won't cry." It's a great tag line supported by Darling's simmering lead and haunting B-3 by Arlan Oscar. "Whistling in the Dark" delivers more simmering Southern soul as Magness delivers the tale of a long-suffering spouse who knows the truth, but is unable to leave the relationship. The rest of the program is made up of her usual selection of well-chosen covers.
Even though the revival of Carl Nielsen's music in the late '60s proved to be nearly as revelatory as the slightly earlier promotion of Gustav Mahler's symphonies, the pace of recordings at the time was quite sluggish. Indeed, by the early '70s, the discography of Nielsen's symphonies included a smattering of releases by Leonard Bernstein and Eugene Ormandy for Columbia, Jascha Horenstein on Nonesuch, and Ole Schmidt on Unicorn, along with these utterly superior recordings by Herbert Blomstedt and the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra for EMI. The six symphonies were recorded between 1973 and 1975, and for their time were the best available recordings of Nielsen's music.