Nielsen: ‘Spraellemanden’ (6 Humouresque-Bagatelles, Op 11, FS 22)  [0’47”]

Elisabeth Westenholz, piano

28 Danish banknote honouring Carl Nielsen

From shepherd boy to the banknotes — some trajectory for the great Dane

As this informative short feature article by Stephen Johnson points out, Denmark’s national composer Carl Nielsen (1865–1931) was too close to the soil to need to be a collector or re-worker of folk songs himself.  He was born, as his long out-of-print My childhood relates, into a poor family, on the island of Fyn (Funen), which also produced Hans Christian Anderson: an impressive double whammy for such a small population.  His father was a humble (if musical) house painter, while Carl himself actually worked as a shepherd before friends clubbed together to send the talented young man to study at the Royal Conservatory in Copenhagen.  There he somehow made himself into the composer known to us for his symphonies, concerti and excellent Wind Quintet, op 43.  His piano music isn’t that shabby either, as witness the Chaconne, Theme and Variations and opus 45 Suite on this disc.  Even an earlyish work like the miniature set of Humouresques–Bagatelles of which this characterful little Spraellemanden (‘Jumping Jack’) is one, is well worth hearing and unmistakably the product of a genuine composer.  Those wishing to explore further could do worse than proceed from the website of the Nielsen Society, a model of its kind.

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