Carl Nielsen’s six symphonies share the great Danish composer’s impulsive, energetic style but each one has its individual characteristics. They run the gamut from the illustrative No 2 (The Four Temperaments), through the existential struggles of No 4 (Inextinguishable) and No 5, to the quirky Sixth, where the composer expressed his disdain for 1920s Modernism.


The whole set has been recorded frequently, and usually well. Recent examples include Sakari Oramo in Stockholm, Alan Gilbert in New York, and John Storgårds with the BBC Philharmonic. Older recordings by Esa-Pekka Salonen in Sweden and Herbert Blomstedt in San Francisco are still available and still recommendable. However, none emanate from Denmark.

The first recordings of Nielsen’s symphonies, appearing in the 1950s and earlier under Thomas Jensen and Erik Tuxen, featured the Danish National Symphony Orchestra. Bernstein made a famous recording of No 3 there in the 1960s, but since then the only Danish recording of note was the complete set under Michael Schønwandt (da capo/Naxos). Schønwandt’s performances are warmly idiomatic, but the acoustic is spacious and a lot of detail gets muddied....