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What Do Inside Out and Nielsen Have in Common?

Pixar Inside Out Nielsen NY Philharmonic

We were surprised and delighted to learn that Danish composer Carl Nielsen — subject of our multi-year The Nielsen Project — is somewhat behind the inspiration for Disney/Pixar’s latest creation, Inside Out, about the emotions (joy, fear, anger, disgust, and sadness) in the mind of a usually joyful 11-year-old girl reeling from her family’s move.

As Inside Out director Pete Docter told Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air:

Childhood is a sacred, special kind of point in time that has a real joy and purity to it. We long on a daily basis to reach back and grab onto that in some way. So this idea of moving seemed like a good way to represent that metaphorically. ... When I was in fifth grade, my folks moved us to Denmark. ... My father was working on his Ph.D. on the Danish choral music of Carl Nielsen. ... And so not only did I have all new friends and all new surroundings, I didn't even understand what they were talking about, which was very difficult and kind of started me, I think, on my path to animation. It was a lot easier to draw people than to talk and interact with them. ... I remember falling into this melancholy.

As it turns out, Nielsen’s Second Symphony is a sort of Inside Out in symphonic form. Titled The Four Temperaments, the symphony depicts the four "humors" that medieval theory said governed human personality: The Choleric (angry, irritable), The Sanguine (extroverted, optimistic), The Melancholic (sad, quiet), and The Phlegmatic (calm, peaceful). The composer wrote that for the second movement, depicting The Phlegmatic, he:

Visualized a young fellow. ... uncommonly lovable, and everybody was attached to him. He was about 17–18 years old, with sky-blue eyes, confident and big. His real inclination was to lie where the birds sing, where the fish glide noiselessly through the water, where the sun warms and the wind strokes mildly round one's curls. ... I have never seen him dance; he wasn't active enough for that. ... What’s that? Did a barrel fall into the harbor from a ship, disturbing the young chap lying on the pier dreaming? Maybe. So what?

Nielsen got the idea for the symphony while enjoying a beer with friends at a country inn, where he saw:

A most comical picture, divided into four sections in which ‘the Temperaments’ were represented. ... I burst into laughter. … my friends and I were highly amused by their naively and exaggerated expressions and comical gravity. But how oddly things turn out! I who had laughed loudly and derisively at these pictures found my thoughts constantly returning to them, and one fine day it was clear to me that these simple paintings contained a core of goodness and … even a musical possibility into the bargain.

Check out Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic’s recording of Nielsen’s The Four Temperaments (selected by The New York Times as one of the Best Classical Music Recordings of 2012) here or in the complete box set (also available as a download). And if you haven’t already, see Inside Out (bring tissues).

Third Nielsen Project Recording Available for Pre-Order

Nielsen Recording Alan Gilbert NY Philharmonic

The third recording of The Nielsen Project, featuring Music Director Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic's performances of Nielsen's Symphonies No. 5 and No. 6, Sinfonia semplice, is available for pre-order on Amazon.

But here's a better idea. Buy a CD tomorrow night at Perspectives on Nielsen: A Conversation with Principal Clarinet Anthony McGill, a free Insights at the Atrium event on January 7, 2015. And get it signed by Alan Gilbert following the performance of Nielsen's Clarinet Concerto featuring Mr. McGill on Thursday, January 8, 2015.

The recording will be released on February 10, 2015, by Denmark’s Dacapo label and distributed by the Naxos group. It is the third of four that will culminate in a boxed set coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the Danish composer’s birth, June 9, 2015.

For more information about Carl Nielsen, The Nielsen Project, and this week’s concerts, including photos and video, visit nyphil.org/nielsen.

Update:

ClassicsToday.com gave the recording a review of 10 out of 10 in both artistic quality and sound quality. "This [recording] is fantastic," the review concludes.

TheArtsDesk.com wrote that the Sixth Symphony is "fiendishly difficult to bring off, and Alan Gilbert's reading is sensationally played by the New York Philharmonic..."  Of the Fifth: "Gilbert's weighty, serious approach is effective. The extended static passages are unusually ominous, brass and percussion letting rip to deafening effect. ... The first movement's pale, exhausted close is wonderful, preceding a second movement where Gilbert's well-chosen tempo allows his players to articulate the notes. The symphony's dizzying ending rightly astonishes, Nielsen avoiding the expected peroration with an abrupt, ecstatic screeching of brakes. Sensational music, superbly played..."

Audiophile Audition wrote, "The luminous quality of the New York Philharmonic strings and brass enjoys a vivacity I have not relished so thoroughly since the Dimitri Mitropoulos and Leonard Bernstein days of committed leadership."

The Arts Desk Asks Alan Gilbert 10 Questions on Nielsen

When did Music Director Alan Gilbert fall in love with the music of Danish composer Carl Nielsen? He recently told TheArtsDesk.com in a feature titled "10 Questions for Conductor Alan Gilbert":

“I first got to know Nielsen's music a long time ago. ... It was actually the New York Philharmonic playing the Fourth Symphony; I remember a performance that Herbert Blomstedt did that just blew me away. I was stunned, I’d never heard it before, I’d never imagined that such a thing could exist, and he had such a wonderful way with his music.” 

Read the entire Q&A, in which Gilbert discusses a myriad of topics relating to the Orchestra’s ongoing Nielsen Project, such as why the Philharmonic, Nielsen, and Dacapo records is the perfect fit for a multi-year exploration of the composer’s repertoire:

“I wanted to start doing Nielsen symphonies, because I remembered that Fourth Symphony performance that I heard, and I happened to think — and I still think — that the orchestra has a quintessentially Nielsenesque sound, whatever that means. I mean the kind of clarity and the power and precision and the warmth that they can bring to the soaring, singing melodies is, I think, really gorgeous. And it was a kind of fortuitous confluence. It happened that Dacapo was interested in me and the orchestra and, of course, as a Danish company they were interested in Nielsen and things came together in a sort of lucky way and the idea of this sort of panoramic project was hatched.”

Read a roundup of reviews of our latest Nielsen album.

Read a roundup of reviews of our latest Nielsen concerts.

Nielsen Album Wins Critical Praise

"Nowhere else are the works of Nielsen better off than in the hands of the gifted New York Philharmonic Orchestra," wrote the German magazine WiMP, which recently made the latest recording of The Nielsen Project — the Philharmonic's multiyear focus on Carl Nielsen — its CD of the Week.

The album, on Denmark's Dacapo label and distributed by Naxos, features Music Director Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic's performances of Nielsen's Symphony No. 1 and No. 4, The Inextinguishable. The recording is available for purchase and streaming on AmazoniTunesSpotify.

Theartsdesk.com wrote:

Alan Gilbert tears into the opening of Nielsen 4 with some ferocity, sustaining the forward motion very nicely indeed. … Gilbert hasn't micromanaged things, letting an on-form New York Philharmonic let rip.

Gilbert's blazing climax, seven minutes in, has to be heard to be believed. And the Allegro's duelling timps? They're astonishing here … But it's the delectable Symphony No. 1 which I've returned to again and again, Nielsen tipping his hat to Brahms and Dvořák whilst creating something highly individual. Gilbert really nails the music's fiery volatility, and you envy anyone experiencing the piece for the first time. He can also relax, to pleasing effect.

Sinfini Music gave it 4/5 stars: 

The New York Philharmonic playing is mostly magnificent, its horns especially impressive in [the symphonies'] third movements – silky-soft in the coda of the First Symphony’s semi-scherzo and full-throated in the climactic build of the Fourth’s Poco adagio – and its first clarinettist as subtle as can be very early on in both symphonies.

If you’re hearing these symphonies for the first time, too, you won’t fail to be impressed at Gilbert’s rugged pacing.

ClassicsToday.com gave the release a 9/10 rating: 

"These are strong, exciting performances of symphonies that demand the sort of bold muscularity in their execution that these artists offer. In Alan Gilbert’s hands the First Symphony sounds extremely confident and wholly mature. … The playing of the New York Philharmonic throughout is fresh and unaffected, full of spirit and drive.

The performance of the “Inextinguishable” Fourth Symphony also features some really impressive energy and power. In the first movement the brass play with a precision and clarity that few other versions can match, and in the finale the dueling timpani compete with real bravura. ... This is a very impressive release.

Update:

In The New York Times' "Classical Critics Pick the Top Music Recordings of 2014," chief classical music critic Anthony Tommasini wrote, "Alan Gilbert again proves an inspired conductor of the visionary Danish composer Carl Nielsen in this impressive live recording with the New York Philharmonic. ... Here are gripping, insightful accounts of the First and Fourth Symphonies." In November, Tommasini wrote, in a New York Times Classical Playlist: "Sometimes a musician just 'gets' a composer’s music, for example, the conductor Alan Gilbert and the Danish composer Carl Nielsen (1865-1931). ... [H]e manages to make these scores seem structured and inevitable."  

BBC Music magazine called the recording "fresh and daring," giving it a review of five out of five stars.

MusicWeb International wrote: "This is big-hearted music and Gilbert and the NYPO do it well."

'Gilbert, Philharmonic at Their Finest in Carl Nielsen': A Roundup of Reviews

Alan Gilbert NY Philharmonic

In a review of the latest in our “welcome airings” of music by Nielsen, part of a multiyear effort called The Nielsen Project, The New York Times wrote (of Wednesday's concert):

The players clearly share Mr. Gilbert’s enthusiasm for the composer, conveying the music with a commitment and attention to detail that rendered the Fifth [Symphony] an exciting traversal of contrasting moods. … The enigmatic clarinet solo at the end of the first movement was beautifully rendered by Marc Nuccio. The dramatic finale, with skittish winds and subdued strings, contrasted with passages of blazing fury, unfolded with mesmerizing force.

In ConcertoNet.com, Harry Rolnick wrote

Some of us wore our “I Heart Nielsen” badges with utmost pride. But the conductor didn’t need a badge. He conducted the Maskarade overture like it was a circus parade. ... Mr. Gilbert ... leaped and jumped, cued in everybody, and showed a physical enthusiasm for the composer which — even for the unsuspecting audience — was unavoidably infectious. ... 

He conducted the very polarized Fifth Symphony with bravado, with stern attention to the percussion and wind solos, and those countless fugues, with as much transparency as possible. Mr. Gilbert certainly has the orchestra to make these variegated moods live. After all, Leonard Bernstein had the same love for Nielsen. But his recordings of the Fifth, while rich and broad, didn’t even attempt when the conductor did last night. ... Mr. Gilbert made certain that the music rose above the polarity of emotions, he balanced the grand murals with the eccentric solos.

But it was in the Sixth Symphony that Mr. Gilbert gave a performance I could never even imagine. ... The second movement, called Humoreske, is played usually as a debonair parody. Mr. Gilbert decided to make it a full-fledged attack. ... For the introduction, he spaced out the different solos–triangles, drum tapes, wind notes– them over the orchestra. After that, Mr. Gilbert rode the orchestra like it was a mad bull ... 

Reviewing the same concert in New York Classical Review, Amanda Angel wrote, of the Fifth Symphony:

Gilbert set principal percussionist Christopher Lamb on the rest of the Philharmonic, and he relentlessly staged an attack with a variety of dynamics. Sounding at once like a drum major and a rain of bullets, the drumming kept the piece spontaneous and troubling. In a clever bit of stagecraft, Lamb, receded off stage, as Anthony McGill, the orchestra’s new principal clarinet (who will play the solo part of Nielsen’s Clarinet Concerto to finish the cycle this January), played a wistful idyll to close the movement. The tension continued through the second movement with a series of roiling tempests, relentlessly pounding timpani, repetitive motifs, and a heroic effort by the horn section.

(Photo: Chris Lee)

Wall St. Journal: Alan Gilbert & Phil Take ‘Uniquely New York Approach’ to Nielsen

"Sibelius has had a kind of renaissance, and he's really accepted now," said Mr. Gilbert. "I think it's Nielsen's turn."

That's a quote from today's Wall Street Journal piece by Corinne Ramey on Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic's Nielsen Project, the multiyear exploration of the Danish composer Carl Nielsen.

The project is notable not only because the Philharmonic has put considerable institutional weight behind promoting a lesser-known composer, but because, at a time when orchestras are often thought to be increasingly stylistically similar, these recordings illustrate a uniquely New York approach. The series' next installment, an all-Nielsen program that includes the fifth and sixth symphonies, begins this Wednesday.

Read the whole article, which talks about how Gilbert got into Nielsen, and how he and the Philharmonic approach his music. Click here for more on the latest Nielsen recording. And join us Wednesday through Friday!

Second Recording of Nielsen Project Released

NY Philharmonic Nielsen CD


The next recording of The Nielsen Project — the Philharmonic's multi-year focus on Carl Nielsen — is out. On Denmark's Dacapo label and distributed by the Naxos group, it features Music Director Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic's performances of Nielsen's Symphonies No. 1 and No. 4, The Inextinguishable. The recording is the second of four that will culminate in a boxed set coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the Danish composer's birth, June 9, 2015.

The recording is available for purchase and streaming on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, and other major online music providers.

Music Director Alan Gilbert will sign copies of the CD following the performance of Nielsen's Maskarade Overture and Symphonies No. 5 and No. 6, Sinfonia semplice on October 2.

For more information about Carl Nielsen and The Nielsen Project, including photos and video, visit nyphil.org/nielsenproject.

Update:

In The New York Times' "Classical Critics Pick the Top Music Recordings of 2014," chief classical music critic Anthony Tommasini wrote, "Alan Gilbert again proves an inspired conductor of the visionary Danish composer Carl Nielsen in this impressive live recording with the New York Philharmonic. ... Here are gripping, insightful accounts of the First and Fourth Symphonies." In November, Tommasini wrote, in a New York Times Classical Playlist: "Sometimes a musician just 'gets' a composer’s music, for example, the conductor Alan Gilbert and the Danish composer Carl Nielsen (1865-1931). ... [H]e manages to make these scores seem structured and inevitable."  

BBC Music magazine called the recording "fresh and daring," giving it a review of five out of five stars.

MusicWeb International wrote: "This is big-hearted music and Gilbert and the NYPO do it well."

New Yorker, WQXR Fall Previews Tip Oct. Nielsen Concerts

Alan Gilbert Carl Nielsen 

Last week, in its "Fall Preview: 20 Classical Music Concerts to Watch For," WQXR included the all-Nielsen program October 1–3 conducted by Alan Gilbert.

"Alan Gilbert conducts the final installment of his Nielsen Project, a multi-season cycle aimed to raise the profile of the idiosyncratic yet highly expressive Danish composer. The program features the Maskarade Overture, the tumultuous Symphony No. 5 (1921-22), and the strange and imposing Symphony No. 6 (1924)," wrote WQXR's Brian Wise.

In The New Yorker, Russell Platt wrote:

On Oct. 1-3, Alan Gilbert conducts the Philharmonic in the finale of his Nielsen Project, a multi-season effort to bring the Danish composer Carl Nielsen, one of the most fascinating and fiercely expressive of the early moderns, to a broader audience; the program includes the engaging “Maskarade” Overture, the shattering Symphony No. 5 (a Bernstein favorite), and the mysterious and mercurial Symphony No. 6.

Learn more about The Nielsen Project.

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