Symphony No.2, Op.16 (The Four Temperaments)
Symphony No.3, Op.27 (Sinfonia Espansiva)
Lucy Hall (soprano) & Marcus Farnsworth (baritone) [Sinfonia Espansiva]
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis
Recorded in the Barbican Hall, London in 2011 – The Four Temperaments on 4 & 6 December, Sinfonia Espansiva on 11 & 13 December
CD No: LSO LIVE LSO0722
Duration: 67 minutes
Reviewed: January 2013
With this release, LSO Live completes its Nielsen Symphony Cycle conducted by Sir Colin Davis (previous couplings are 4/5 and 1/6). ‘The Four Temperaments’ (1902) fits nicely into Sir Colin’s humanistic and spontaneous way with music. It’s a powerful and expressive account, albeit brass-dominated at times, and is appreciative of both Nielsen’s stylish and bucolic approach to composition, Davis relishing Nielsen’s individual take on the human condition, whether ‘Choleric’, ‘Phlegmatic’, ‘Melancholic’ or ‘Sanguine’. Zesty and affectionate, with depth of feeling when required, there is a freshness to this account that makes it worth hearing, and the joyous finale has a bounce that is infectious.
Similar feelings are generated with ‘Sinfonia Espansiva’ (1911); not the last word on the music but a very likeable and pleasing performance that pulses with vitality from the off, and delights in some precisely calibrated dynamic variances before the slinky waltz breaks forth big-time, a delirious carousel. The pastoral middle movements are both evocative, the first one (beginning with an arresting Schubert-like from-afar horn-call) not necessarily of this earth, if with fervent surges, and with incantatory vocalises from the two singers, well-managed and -balanced here. The third movement, mixing folksy and fugal material, is brought off with point and significance. With the finale, arguably the most ‘expansive’ music in the symphony, Sir Colin surprises with his less-than-broad tempo, a pushing-ahead that avoids false sentiment or overblown rhetoric (neither of which is in Sir Colin’s nature) but perhaps missing Nielsen’s sense of brotherhood. Nevertheless, it is a characteristically unpretentious view of the music that is easily shared and returned to.