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A Dane Is Getting His Due
Works by Carl Nielsen Keep Popping Up in Concerts
Zachary Woolfe | The New York Times | 20 February 2014

Alan Gilbert's most important efforts as music director of the New York Philharmonic have been in the realm of new music, hoisting the orchestra into the 21st century with initiatives like the Contact! series and the forthcoming NY Phil Biennial. But some of his biggest successes have been with a composer who died in 1931, the Danish symphonic master Carl Nielsen.

Buoyed by Mr. Gilbert, whose Scandinavian appetite might have grown during his years leading the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, his New York ensemble is in the midst of a multiyear project of recording Nielsen's six symphonies and three concertos for the Dacapo label. In 2012, its program of the flute and violin concertos was among the best concerts of Mr. Gilbert's tenure, a thrilling demonstration of a sensibility balanced between Romantic and Modernist.

Mr. Gilbert and the Philharmonic take another step forward with a program opening March 12 at Avery Fisher Hall: Nielsen's First Symphony, whose opening bustles and slow movement does not so much wander as lyrically swirl, the dramatic Fourth ("Inextinguishable") and the "Helios" Overture.

Those concerts will not be the only places to find Nielsen at Lincoln Center though. On March 16, the morning after the Philharmonic finishes its tribute to him, the Afiara String Quartet will play his plush yet piquant Quartet in G minor at the Walter Reade Theater, on a program with Dvorak's String Quartet No. 10 in E flat.

And the Philharmonic will have one more word on the subject. The British composer Julian Anderson's "Discovery of Heaven," whose American premiere will be performed by the Philharmonic on April 24 at Fisher Hall, under the direction of Andrew Davis, is inspired by sources as far-flung as Japanese Gagaku music, Mongolian overtone chanting, Gregorian chant and the interplay between percussion and melody at the end of the first movement of, you guessed it, Nielsen's Fifth Symphony.

It will be a must-hear for the Nielsen Project completists out there, and perhaps enough to hold them until October, when the Philharmonic approaches the conclusion of its series at Fisher Hall with a program including the Symphonies No. 5 and 6. The Sixth, a thorny, ambiguous work nicknamed the "Sinfonia semplice," will have its first Philharmonic performances, an occasion to celebrate for Nielsen lovers everywhere.