• Carl Nielsen
  • Symfoni nr. 5, Op. 50
    (Symphony No. 5)

  • Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen (World)
  • 3(pic).2.2.2/
  • 39 min
    • 19th September 2024, Odense Koncerthus, Odense, Denmark
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Programme Note

On the day of the premiere (24th January 1922) of Carl Nielsen’s Symphony no. 5, the Danish newspaper "Politiken" printed an interview with the composer:

"My first symphony was nameless too. But then came "The Four Temperaments", "Espansiva", and "The Inextinguishable", actually just different names for the same thing, the only thing that music in the final analysis can express: the resting powers as opposed to the active ones. If I were to find a name for this, my new fifth symphony, it would express something similar. I have been unable to get hold of the one word that is at the same time characteristic and not too pretentious - so I let it be."

"But the idea or thought that lies behind it?"

"Yes, how should I explain it? I roll a stone up a hill; use the energy I have in me to get the stone up to a high point. And there the stone lies still. The energy is tied up in it - until I give it a kick, and the same energy is released and the stone rolls down again. But you just mustn't see this as a programme!

These explanations and instructions for what the music "represents" can only be bad, they distract the listeners and spoil the absolute grasp of the work. This time I have changed the form and I am content with two parts instead of the usual four movements. I’ve thought so much about this - that in the old symphonic form you usually said most of what you had on your mind in the first allegro. Then came the calm andante, which functioned as a contrast, but then it's the scherzo, where you get up too high again and spoil the mood for the finale, where the ideas have all too often run out.

I shouldn't wonder if Beethoven felt that in his "Ninth", when he got some assistance from the human voice towards the end!

So what I have done this time is to divide the symphony into two large, broad parts - the first, which begins slowly and calmly, and the second, more active. I've been told that my new symphony isn't like my earlier ones. I can't hear it myself. But perhaps it's true. I do know that it isn't all that easy to grasp, nor all that easy to play. We've had many rehearsals of it. Some people have even thought that now Arnold Schoenberg can pack his bags and take a walk with his disharmonies. Mine were worse. I don't think so."