Carl Nielsen

(1865—1931) Danish composer

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(b Nørre‐Lyndelse, 1865; d Copenhagen, 1931).

Danish composer, violinist, and conductor. Showed mus. talent as child and became military trumpeter at 14 at Odense 1879–83. Formed str. qt. in 1882. Joined th. orch. as violinist, 1886, and was violinist in Royal Chapel orch. 1889–1905. Studied at Royal Cons., Copenhagen, 1884. Made some appearances as cond., and became a cond. at Royal Th., Copenhagen, 1908–14. Cond. Copenhagen Mus. Soc. 1915–27. On staff of Royal Danish Cons. from 1915, becoming dir. 1931. Visited Berlin 1921, London 1923, and Paris 1926 to conduct his own works. For many years his mus. was little known outside Denmark, but after World War II the power and originality of his syms. spread to other countries. The 5th Sym. contains an early aleatory feature, when the side‐drummer is instructed to improvise so as to drown the rest of the orch. His First Sym. of 1891–2 is one of earliest examples of ‘progressive tonality’, i.e. it begins in one key and ends in another. Prin. comps.:



, melodrama (1893);

Saul and David




incidental music:

Hr. Oluf han rider

(Master Oluf Rides) (1906);







Hagbarth og Signe


St Hansaftenspil










Ebbe Skammelsen


Amor og Digteren

(Love and the Poet) (1931);




The Four Temperaments Sinfonia espansiva Det uudslukkelige Sinfonia semplice

syms.: No.1 in G minor (1891–2), No.2 () (1901–2), No.3 () with sop. and bar. (1910–11), No.4 (, The Inextinguishable) (1915–16); No.5 (1921–2), No.6 () (1924–5);

Little Suite

, str. (1888);


, ov. (1903);

The Dream of GunnarSaga‐Drøm

() (1908); vn. conc. (1911);

Franz Neruda in memoriam

, speaker, orch. (1918);

Pan and Syrinx

, pastorale (1917);

7 Pieces from ‘Aladdin’

(1918–19); fl. conc. (1926);

En Fantasirejse til Faerøerne

(An Imaginary Trip to the Faroe Islands), rhapsody (1927); cl. conc. (1928).


Hymnus Amoris

, sop., ten., bar., bass, children's ch., male ch., mixed ch., orch. (1896);


(Sleep), ch., orch. (1904);

Fynsk Foraar

(Springtime on Fyn), sop., ten., bass‐bar., ch., orch. (1921);

Hyldest til Holberg

(Homage to Holberg), solo vv., ch., orch. (1922);

Hymne til Kunsten

(Hymn to Art), sop., ten., ch., wind instr. (1929);

3 Motets

, unacc. ch. (1929); various occasional cantatas, incl. one for the 50th anniv. of Danish Cremation Union (1931).

chamber music:

str. qts.: in D minor (1882–3), in F (1887), No.1 in G minor (1888), No.2 in F minor (1890), No.3 in E♭ (1898), No.4 in F (1906/19); str. quintet in G (1888), wind quintet (1922); vn. sonatas: in G (1881–2), No.1 in A (1895), No.2 (1912);

Ved en ung Kunstners Baare

(At the bier of a young artist), str. qt., db. (1910);

Prelude and Theme with Variations

, solo vn. (1923);

Serenata in vano

, cl., bn., hn., vc., db. (1914).


2 Characteristic Pieces

(c. 1882–3);

5 Pieces


Symphonic Suite


6 Humoresque‐Bagatelles


Festive Prelude to the New Century




Theme with Variations


Subjects: Music.

Reference entries

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