Symphony No. 5 (Nielsen)

Symphony No. 5 (Nielsen)

The Symphony No. 5 (Op. 50, FS 97) by Danish composer Carl Nielsen was completed on 15 January 1922 and first performed in Copenhagen on 24 January 1922 with the composer conducting. It is one of two of Nielsen's six symphonies lacking a subtitle.

The Fifth Symphony is noted for its unusual structure - two movements instead of the customary three or four - and for the modernity of its language. Many see its subjects as contrast, opposition and, as with his Symphony No. 4, survival in the face of struggle. According to a programme note by Nielsen scholar Robert Simpson, musicologist Deryck Cooke went so far as to call this symphony "the greatest twentieth-century symphony". [ Fanning, p. 2 & 105. The comment is not found in any of Cooke's published writings, however. Robert Simpson remembers the remark being made to him several times in conversation. ]



There is no documentation of what inspired Nielsen to write his fifth symphony or when he started to write it, but it is generally understood that the first movement was composed in Humlebæk during the winter and spring of 1921. He reported to his son-in-law Emil Telmányi in two letters dated 17 February and 23 March 1921 that the progress on his fifth symphony was slow, yet he mentioned to his wife Anne Marie Carl Nielsen on 4 March that the first movement has been completed. He told his wife on 31 March that he had made a fair copy of the first movement but had to stop for rest. Fanning, p. 79 ]

Nielsen stayed at his summer house at Skagen in the early summer that year. At the end of July he moved to a friend's home at Damgaard to compose the cantata "Springtime on Funen", and was therefore only able to resume working on the second movement of the symphony that autumn, during his free time from his conducting work in Gothenburg. He wrote to his wife on 3 September, "Now I am going to go on with my interrupted symphony." [ 1998 score, p. xiii ]

Nielsen finished the whole symphony on 15 January 1922 as dated on the score. He dedicated the new symphony to his friends Vera and Carl Johan Michaelsen. Having insufficient rehearsal time, the premiere took place only nine days later, conducted by the composer himself at the music society Musikforening in Copenhagen. Fanning, p. 80 ]


The immediate reception of the press to the symphony was generally positive, especially the first movement. Axel Kjerulf wrote that in the Adagio section, he heard a Dream giving way to a "Dream about Deeds... Carl Nielsen has maybe never written more powerful, beautiful, fundamentally healthy and genuine music than here." However, critics were more hesistant towards the second movement. In August Felsing's review, he commented that "Intellectual art is what the second part is, and it is a master who speaks. But the pact with the eternal in art which shines forth in the first part is broken here." [ 1998 score, p. xv ]

Musicians' opinions were divided. Victor Bendix, a long-time supporter and friend, wrote to Nielsen the day after the premiere, calling the work a "Sinfonie filmatique, this dirty trenches-music, this impudent fraud, this clenched fist in the face of a defenceless, novelty-snobbish, titillation-sick public, commonplace people e masse, who lovingly lick the hand staine with their own noses' blood!"


Nielsen repeated the symphony later that year at Gothenburg's Orkesterfo. He conducted the German première in Berlin on 1 December 1922. The press was mixed this time. Oscar Bie in the "Berliner Börsen Courier" observed that "The Fifth Symphony, in two movements, with its Nature scenes and string chorale was reminiscent of Mahler's technique, but not so primordially felt: a not quite coherent assembly of desired vision and skilful art." Fanning, p. 81 ]

A Swedish performance on 20 January 1924, under the baton of Georg Schnéevoigt, caused quite a scandal; the "Berlingske Tidende" reported that some audience could not take the modernism of the work:

Midway through the first part with its rattling drums and 'cacophonous' effects a genuine panic broke out. Around a quarter of the audience rushed for the exits with confusion and anger written over their faces, and those who remained tried to hiss down the 'spectacle', while the conudctor Georg Schneevoigt drove the orchestra to extremes of volume. This whole intermezzo underlined the humoristic-burlesque element in the symphony in such a way that Carl Nielsen could certainly never have dreamed of. His representation of modern life with its confusion, brutality and struggle, all the uncontrolled shouts of pain and ignorance - and behind it all the side drum's harsh rhythm as the only disciplining force - as the public fled, made a touch of almost diabolic humour.

Nevertheless the Swedes approved the symphony, as seen from reviews of the Stockholm concert on 5 December 1928. The composer performed the symphony five times, including the Oslo concert on 4 November 1926 and the second Stockholm performance with the Concertgebouw Orchestra on 5 December 1928, together with the three performances noted above. Emil Telmányi led the French première at the Salle Gaveau in Paris on 21 October 1926. The symphony was performed again in Germany on 1 July 1927 at the International Society for Contemporary Music World Music Days festival in Frankfurt under Wilhelm Furtwängler, whose tempo for the Adagio was apparently too slow as reflected in the audience's lack of enthusiasm. He later performed in the right tempo in a Leipzig concert on 27 October 1927. [ Fanning, p. 82-83 ]


A work from the early 20th century, the Fifth Symphony is generally regarded as a modernistic musical piece. The symphony draws on everyone of the "deformation procedures" suggested by James Hepokoski regarding musical modernism: breakthrough deformation, introduction-coda frame, episodes within developmental space, various strophic/sonata hybrids and multi-movement forms in a single movement. [Fanning, p. 12] Its fragmentatory nature, Grimley, p. 149 ] unpredictable character and sudden synchronization at the ending [ Grimley, p. 169 ] also point towards a self-conscious modernist aesthetic.

On the other hand, as in most of Nielsen’s early and middle works, non-modernist devices, including organicism and diatonicism, play some essential roles in his fifth symphony. Intervallic structure built on non-tonic principle does not go opposing the organic principle, for Nielsen’s definition of organism is "coherence". [ Fjeldsøe p. 18-19 ]


The Fifth Symphony is often understood to be a work about contrast and opposition. In a statement to his student Ludvig Dolleris, Nielsen described the symphony as "the division of dark and light, the battle between evil and good" and the opposition between "Dreams and Deeds". Fanning, p. 99] To Hugo Seligman he described the contrast between "vegetative" and "active" states of mind in the symphony.Lawson, p. 169] Simon Rattle described the Fifth Symphony, rather than the Fourth as proclaimed by the composer, [Lawson, p. 151] as being Nielsen's war symphony.

The composer mentioned in an interview with Kjerulf that he was not conscious of the influence of World War I when composing the symphony, but added that "not one of us is the same as we were before the war."Fanning, p. 97-98] In fact, the phrase "dark, resting forces, alert forces" can be found on the back cover of the pencil draft score. Nielsen might have considered it an encapsulation of the contrast both between and within the two movements of the symphony. [Fanning, p. 108] Nielsen also wrote to Dolleris about the presence of an "evil" motif in the first movement of the Fifth Symphony:

Then the "evil" motif intervenes - in the woodwind and strings - and the side drum becomes more and more angry and aggressive; but the nature-theme grows on, peaceful and unaffected, in the brass. Finally the evil has to give way, a last attempt and then it flees - and with a strophe thereafter in consoling major mode a solo clarinet ends this large idyll-movement, an expression of vegetative (idle, thoughtless) Nature.

Although Nielsen asserted that the symphony is non-programmatic, he expressed his views of the symphony in the interview with Kjerulf:

I'm rolling a stone up a hill, I'm using the powers in me to bring the stone to the top. The stone lies there so still, powers are wrapped in it, until I give it a kick and the same powers are released and the stone rolls down again.


Nielsen's Fifth Symphony is originally scored for 3 flutes (third doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, cymbals, triangle, tambourine, snare drum, celesta, and strings. [ 1998 score, p. 161 ]

Some optional doublings are added in the 1950 edition of the score revised by Emil Telmányi and Erik Tuxen; these include the third flute doubling flute in G and the second basson doubling contrabassoon. 1950 score ] These optional doublings are discarded in the 1998 Carl Nielsen Edition score. 1998 score ]


The fifth symphony has two movements instead of the usual four, which is the only time Nielsen used this structure:
#"Tempo giusto - Adagio non troppo"
#"Allegro - Presto - Andante un poco tranquillo - Allegro"

In the interview with Kjerulf, Nielsen jokingly explained that it was not difficult to write the first three movements of a symphony but by the finale most composers had run out of ideas.

First movement

The first movement begins with violas softly oscillating between the C and A notes; after four bars of the single, minimally inflected line bassoon pair enters with the initial theme. [ Fanning, p. 18-19 ] The beginning has been described by Robert Simpson, in his own words, as like "in outer space" and the wave-like line "appears from nowhere, as if one were suddenly made aware of time as a dimension". [ Lawson, p. 172 ] The very first theme ends at b. 20 with a descending scale slide, followed by a fortissimo interruption from violas and a subsequent horn and flute dialogue. [ Grimley, p. 154 ] The prominent feature of instrumental pairing does not lead to any permanent thematic or textural stability, but contrarily grows into a persistent textural sparseness. [ Grimley, p. 157 ]

After a cold, emotionless strings passage which encloses another brief warning from violas, woodwinds cry out amid a percussive background. [ Simpson, p. 89 ] While the monotonous rhythm of snare drum sustains, violins respond tortuously, only to be overwhelmed by the mood of the “savage and destructively egotistical” (Simpson’s description) clarinet and flute. [ Simpson, p. 90 ] The turmoil continues as the bass struggles up a dominant from C to G, invoking a new crash between snare drum and percussion; the attempt of struggling fails as the bass is foiled at G flat when the ominous violin melody is painfully distorted and disintegrates. [ Simpson, p. 91 ] The huge incongruity between harmonic and melodic parameters consistently threatens the music to fracture and collapse. [ Grimley, p. 158 ] After gloomy phrases from various woodwinds, music fades, leaving a feebly pulsing D with tiny hints of percussion sounds. Simpson, p. 92 ]

Suddenly an oboe triplet figure reveals the warm, optimistic theme in G major of "Adagio non troppo" section, a striking contrast to the prior cold landscape. The texture expands contrapuntally for the first time, culminates to a point where the tonality brightens to B major and, after a climax, wanes to G major again. [ Simpson, p. 93 ] The full strings is soon disturbed by the "evil" motif on woodwinds, playing the shivering element in "Tempo giusto"; tension between wind and strings intensify as tonality shifts within instrumental groups in their respective directions. [ Simpson, p. 93-94 ] Real crash comes as the music is menaced by the snare drum at a tempo (quarter note unicode|♩=116) faster than that of the orchestra, and at its climax comes the instruction to the snare drummer by the composer to improvise "as if at all costs he wants to stop the progress of the orchestra". Simpson, p. 94 ] (This instruction is not included in the 1950 edition of score, being replaced by a written rhythmic line and instruction "cad. ad lib." after a few bars.) The great warm theme triumphs into a sustaining grandeur eventually, as is affirmed by the snare drum actually joining the orchestral fanfare. When all subsides, echoes in woodwinds are heard and a solitary clarinet is left to mourn in a tragic atmosphere, recapturing ideas from the whole movements. [ Simpson, p. 94-95 ]

econd movement

The second movement in four section consists of an "exposition", a fast fugue, a slow fugue and a brief coda. The music bursts in in B major and continues with great conflicts between instruments, until the calm, broad theme is found in the slow fugue. At the closure it suddenly pivots on the dominant of E flat major key; various parameter collides and “fall together” into an uplifting 23-bar conclusion. [ Grimley, p. 166 & 169 ]

This movement was portrayed by Robert Simpson as arising from the ashes and ruins left by the conflict in the first movement. [ Simpson, p. 95 ] Jack Lawson, founder and president of The Carl Nielsen Society of Great Britain, commented in his book:

In Part Two, an allegro containing two contrasting fugues, the listener inhabits a world reborn, at first calm but a world which produces new struggles and menacing dangers.… [The Fifth Symphony] heralds the coming of a second European war, but the more mysterious second part defies cerebral analysis (Simpson hesitated over analysing Part Two, feeling that it either needed very deep analysis or, on the contrary, to be described in the fewest possible words): it transports the listener through the depths or above the heights of more standard musical perceptions. [ Lawson, p. 172-173 ]

core publication

Three editions of the Fifth Symphony have been published Fanning, p. 83 ] :
*Borups Musikforlag, 1926, reprinted by Edwin F. Kalmus & Co., Inc. (A5659), with introduction by Clark McAllister, March 1983
*Skandinavisk Musikforlag, 1950, ed. Emil Telmányi and Erik Tuxen
*The Carl Nielsen Edition, 1998, ed. Michael Fjeldsøe

As Nielsen did not obtain satisfactory terms for the publication of his symphony with his usual publishers Wilhelm Hansen Edition, he turned to the symphony's dedicatee Carl Johan Michaelsen. An industrialist aware of the symphony's worth, Michaelsen financed the publishing firm Hans Borups Musikforlag as their first major project to produce the original publication of the Fifth Symphony in 1926. Nielsen received 2000kr for the work, two or three times his expectation. [ Lawson, p. 173 ]

In 1950, Skandinavisk Musikforlag published a new score with a brief commentary, heavily edited by Erik Tuxen. Modifications were made to scoring, articulation and dynamics; a notable change is the elimination of three-sharps key signature for the first "Allegro" in the second movement. The revision is often criticized as beyond Nielsen's intention. Emil Telmányi, credited in the preface as joint editor with Tuxen, later censured the latter for going beyond the "necessary" retouches to the orchestration. [ Fanning, p. 84 ]

The 1998 Carl Nielsen Edition is being produced as a co-operation between the Danish Royal Library and Edition Wilhelm Hansen. [ 1998 score, p. vii ] It is based on the edition by Borups Musikforlag under the general editorship of Niels Martin Jensen. [ Fanning, p. 85 ]


Although Nielsen conducted the Fifth Symphony on five occasions, none of his performances was ever recorded. However, four conductors and two orchestras have certain linkages with the composer, namely Georg Høeberg, Erik Tuxen, Thomas Jensen, Jascha Horenstein, the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra; Fanning, p. 90 ] ; all of them have recorded their interpretations of the Fifth Symphony for once or more. [ Fanning, p. 88 ]

Høeberg's 1933 recording for Dancord with the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra was the first recording and the only one made before the revision by Tuxen in 1950. Tuxen's 1950 performance at the Edinburgh Festival with the DRSO was recorded by Dancord, this was the first live recording of the piece (Tuxen did another live recording with the same orchestra five years later in Paris. [ Fanning, p. 91 ] ). The first major international conductor to record the symphony was Leonard Bernstein, with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1962 for CBS; this recording has helped Nielsen's music to achieve international appreciation. [ Fanning, p. 92 ] The London Symphony Orchestra with Ole Schmidt, 1973-4 (Unicorn-Kanchana) was the first complete set of Nielsen symphonies on record. [ Fanning, p. 93 ]

On LP, the symphony necessarily had to take up a single track on two sides of the disc. On compact disc, some recordings split the two movements into more than two tracks (both Herbert Blomstedt with the San Francisco Symphony and Esa-Pekka Salonen with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra split the first movement into two tracks and the second movement into four tracks) while others have only one track per movement (e.g., Myung-Whun Chung with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra).




*cite book| last = Fanning | first = David | authorlink = David Fanning (musicologist) | title = Nielsen: Symphony No. 5 | publisher = Cambridge University Press | date = 1997 | location = New York | isbn = 0-52144-088-2
*cite book| last = Lawson | first = Jack | title = Carl Nielsen | publisher = Phaidon Press | date = 1997 | location = London | isbn = 0-7148-3507-2
*cite book| last = Simpson | first = Robert | authorlink = Robert Simpson (composer) | title = Carl Nielsen, Symphonist, 1865-1931 | publisher = Hyperion | date = 1989 | location = USA | isbn = 0-88355-715-0


*cite journal | last = Fjeldsøe | first = Michael | title = Organicism and Construction in Nielsen's Symphony No. 5 | journal = Carl Nielsen Studies | volume = 1 | pages = 18-26 | publisher = The Royal Library | location = Copenhagen | date = 2003 | issn = 1603-3663
*cite journal | last = Grimley | first = Daniel M. | title = Modernism and Closure: Nielsen's Fifth Symphony | journal = The Musical Quarterly | volume = 86 | issue = 1 | pages = 149-173 | publisher = Oxford Univeresity Press | location = United States | date = 2002 | issn = 0027-4631


*Nielsen, Carl; Telmányi, Emil; & Tuxen, Erik (Eds.) (1950). "Symfoni no. V, op. 50". Copenhagen: Skandinavisk Musikforlag.
*Nielsen, Carl; & Fjeldsøe, Michael (Ed.) (1998). "Symfoni nr. 5, opus 50". Copenhagen: The Carl Nielsen Edition. ISBN 87-598-0915-9. Preface and sources of this edition of score are available at the website of [ The Royal Library]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем написать реферат

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Symphony No. 1 (Nielsen) — The Symphony No. 1 in G minor (Op. 7, FS 16) is the first orchestral symphony of Danish composer Carl Nielsen. Written between 1891 and 1892, it was dedicated to his wife, Anne Marie Carl Nielsen. The work s première, on 14 March, 1894 was… …   Wikipedia

  • Symphony No. 4 (Nielsen) — The Symphony No. 4 , The Inextinguishable (Danish: Det Uudslukkelige ), by Carl Nielsen, was completed in 1916. This symphony is among the most dramatic that Nielsen wrote, featuring a battle between two sets of timpani.The title Inextinguishable …   Wikipedia

  • Symphony No. 6 (Nielsen) — The Symphony No. 6 by Carl Nielsen, written in 1925, is a work in four movements: #Tempo giusto #Humoreske: Allegretto #Proposta seria: Adagio #Tema con variazioni: AllegroIt was premiered later that year in Copenhagen with the composer… …   Wikipedia

  • Symphony No. 3 (Nielsen) — Carl Nielsen s Symphony No. 3 or Symphony Espansiva is one of Nielsen s most successful compositions and symphonies.The symphony was written over a two year span from 1910 to 1911 mdash; directly after Nielsen s tenure as bandmaster at the Royal… …   Wikipedia

  • Symphony No. 2 (Nielsen) — The Symphony No. 2 The Four Temperaments (Op. 16, FS 29) is the second symphony by Danish composer Carl Nielsen written in 1901 to 1902 and dedicated to Ferruccio Busoni. It was first performed in 1 December 1902 for the Danish Concert… …   Wikipedia

  • Symphony No. 1 — is a simple designation for the first symphony published by a composer. The term applies to: Formally titled * Symphony No. 1, by William Alwyn * Symphony No. 1, by Malcolm Arnold * Symphony No. 1, by Arnold Bax * Symphony No. 1, Op. 21, by… …   Wikipedia

  • Symphony — Álbum de estudio de Sarah Brightman Publicación 28 de enero de 2008 …   Wikipedia Español

  • symphony — /sim feuh nee/, n., pl. symphonies. 1. Music. a. an elaborate instrumental composition in three or more movements, similar in form to a sonata but written for an orchestra and usually of far grander proportions and more varied elements. b. an… …   Universalium

  • Nielsen, Carl — ▪ Danish composer in full  Carl August Nielsen   born June 9, 1865, Sortelung, near Norre Lyndelse, Den. died Oct. 3, 1931, Copenhagen       violinist, conductor, and Denmark s foremost composer, particularly admired as a symphonist.… …   Universalium

  • Symphony No. 3 — Among the pieces of music with the title Symphony No. 3 are:*William Alwyn s Symphony No. 3 *Malcolm Arnold s Symphony No. 3, op. 63 *Arnold Bax s Symphony No. 3 *Henk Badings s Symphony No. 3 *Tadeusz Baird s Symphony No. 3 *Arnold Bax s… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”