Carl Nielsen's songs are part of the Danish national heritage, but it may surprise many people to learn that these popular songs amount to only one fifth of his total production of approximately 250 songs. There are many reasons for this. When Carl Nielsen published his first songs—»Five Poems« and »Songs and Verse« with texts by J.P. Jacobsen—at the end of the last century, they seemed singularly odd in comparison with the romantic song tradition familiar from the works of Heise and Lange-Müller. It was not until he composed songs like »O, Danish Man« and, in particular, Jeppe Aakjær's »Jens the Roadman« that he struck a popular note which was to make him widely loved, even by people who did not generally appreciate his music. It was strophic songs that Carl Nielsen came to concentrate on in his vocal music, one of the few exceptions being »The Song of the Bear«, which, with its use of polytonality and dissonance, stands in sharp contrast to the songs that have become known through the Folk High School Song Book.
But Carl Nielsen's song production is richer and more varied than these songs suggest, as for example his »Four Jutland Songs«, in which he, a native of Funen, so successfully brings out the essentially Jutland character of the poems by Anton Berntsen, or his settings for Johannes V. Jensen's two humorous though bitter ballads from The Fall ofthe King.
Hans Christian Andersen's »Studies from Nature«, which could well be the motto for all Carl Nielsen's works,—not the outward appearance of nature, but nature as he himself formed—was composed in 1916 and published separately the same year.
»Ariel's Song« was written for a small play by Helge Rode, performed at Kronborg, Elsinore, also in 1916, on the occasion of the tercentenary of Shakespeare's death. It was published separately and dedicated to the singer Anders Brems.
During the years 1902-1907 Carl Nielsen composed two volumes of »Strophic Songs«, which were published in 1907 as Op. 21. »Shall the Flowers Wither Then« and »The Hawk« are from the first volume, while the two ballads from The Fall of the King—»Homeless« and »Good Nights—are from the second.
»Songs and Verse by J.P. Jacobsen«, Op. 6, were composed in the same year as Carl Nielsen's first collection of Jacobsen poems, Op. 4, and were published in 1893. The piano part plays an important role here. In many places, as for example in The Seraphs«, Carl Nielsen seems to hover between major and minor keys—a peculiarity that was later to become characteristic.
Like, »The Golden River«, »The Land of the Future«, was printed for the first time in Ubberup High School's yearbook. The latter is dated 28 November, 1929, but was not included in the Folk High School Music Book until 1940; the former was composed in the previous year and printed in the Folk High School Paper in 1928. It has never been reprinted.
In 1924 Carl Nielsen became interested in Anton Berntsen's collection GjemmÆvvel. From this he first of all set to music, partly in through-composed form, the amusing and dramatic account of the fisherman Jens Madsen, who was out spearing eels when the ice started to break up. In 1925 he composed another three songs originating from the same collection. The four songs were published posthumously in 1941 under the title »Four Jutland Songs«.
»The Song of the Bear« has acquired an opus number of its own, and it the longest through-composed song Carl Nielsen ever wrote. In a letter to his friend, the composer Rudolf Simonsen, dated 29 June, 1922, he writes: » ... and I have meet the Swedish poet Almqvist (1793-1866), a most remarkable, extremely distinctive and varied poet (I feel as if I were »Wahlverwandt« with this strange man)—and I shall probably become closer acquainted with him later on . . .«
This was to be in the following year. Carl Nielsen had persuaded Aage Berntsen, the poet responsible for »Springtime in Funen«, to re-create Almqvist's saga of the wilderness, »The She-Bear« from Book of the Rose, in rhymed verse. This extremely complicated tone poem was finally dated 15 November, 1923. Carl Nielsen wrote to his son-in-law Emil Telmanyi: » ... my daughter Irmelin thinks it very dramatic, and I my self am reasonably satisfied with the work.«
On 21 December, 1929, Carl Nielsen wrote a melody in a ballad style entirely his own to Thøger Larsen's poem »Denmark, Now Sleeps the Light Night«. Oluf Ring's well-known setting to this poem was then already eight years' old, and has retained its popularity:
»Danish Weather«, a poem by Ove Rode set to music by Carl Nielsen, was published separately by Borup's Music Publishers in 1927, the same year as it was composed.
»Reunion«—to a text by Paludan-Müller—was composed on Saturday 4 January, 1930, and printed in the April edition of the Folk High School Paper in the same year. It has never been reprinted.
From the two famous collections »Twenty Danish Songs I-II«, respectively 1915 and 1917, come »She Knows Me Not« and »My Little Bird«—both to poems by Hans Christian Andersen—as well as »Look Around, One Summer Day«. These are all from the second volume, while »Farewell, My Blessed Town of Birth« and »The Refsnæs Lads« are from the first.
»The Groves Are Shining Green Now« was printed for the first time in the collection »Twenty Folk Melodies, 1921« and, with its simple, catching melody, it became part of the Danish national heritage when included in the Folk High School Music Book together with another song from the same collection: »Morning Dew Which Gently Trembles.«
The melody to »In Cooling Shadows« from Johannes Ewald's »The Joys of Rungsted« was published for the first time in Johan Borup's Danish Song Book from 1926, for which Carl Nielsen had been asked, as previously, to write melodies. However, to judge from some correspondence with, for example, the High School principal Harald Balslev, Carl Nielsen does not appear to have been entirely satisfied with them.
Thus, in a letter to Balslev dated 10 May, 1926, he writes: » ... but don't you think I could soon stop composing these popular songs?« What Carl Nielsen does not mention, however, is that he also composed an arrangement, with independent piano passages. It is this version, the manuscript of which is housed in the Royal Library, that has been used in this recording.
»My Native Soil« was composed in 1929 to a text by Frederik Poulsen, but was not printed until 1940, nine years after Carl Nielsen's death.
Peder Severin. Trained at the Opera Academy of the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen. Thereafter awarded grants for continued studies at St. Cecilia in Rome, with Professor Georges Cunelli in London and Anton Dermota in Vienna.
Debut in 1971 at the Jutland Opera—in 1972 at the Royal Theatre, Copenhagen. Since then Peder Severin has sung a great many lyrical tenor parts, in opera and operetta and as a soloist in classical oratorio both with Danish symphony orchestras and symphony orchestras abroad, such as the Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Slask and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. He has also given many lieder recitals.
His collaboration with Dorte Kirkeskov began in 1981 with a lieder concert in the Tivoli Concert Hall. Since then they have given many recitals, their repertoire ranging from Danish and Norwegian composers like Carl Nielsen, Lange-Müller, Peter Heise, Grieg, Sibelius, and Peterson-Berger to lieder by Schubert, Schumann, Liszt, Beethoven and Mahler.
Dorte Kirkeskov was taught by Esther Vagning at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen, graduating in 1973. Thereafter she studied for a period with Hans Leygraf at the Mozarteum in Salzburg and the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik and Theater in Hannover. From 1975-77 she studied in the soloist class under John Damgaard at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, from which she made her debut in 1977. She has since supplemented her education with international master classes, and today she is very much in demand in Denmark as a chamber music player, and not least as an accompanist of lieder.
Henrik Poulsen, designer and one of Denmark's leading Carl Nielsen specialists, has taken the initiative regarding this recording of Carl Nielsen's songs, most of which are relatively little known, and many of which have never been published or recorded before.
- Peder Severin, tenor
- Dorte Kirkeskov, piano
- Studie efter naturen (Study after Nature), song for voice and piano, FS 82
- Ariel's Song ('Selv naar Tordenen tynger'), for voice and piano (from FS 80)
- Strophic Songs (7), for voice and piano, FS 42 (Op. 21): No 1, Skal Blomsterne da visne? (Shall the Flowers Wither Then?)
- Strophic Songs (7), for voice and piano, FS 42 (Op. 21): No 2, Høgen (The Hawk)
- Viser og vers (Songs and Verses) (5), FS 14 (Op. 6): No 1, Genrebillede (Genre Piece)
- Viser og vers (Songs and Verses) (5), FS 14 (Op. 6): No 2, Seraferne (The Seraphs)
- Viser og vers (Songs and Verses) (5), FS 14 (Op. 6): No 3, Silkesko over gylden Læst (Silken Shoes on a Golden Last)
- Viser og vers (Songs and Verses) (5), FS 14 (Op. 6): No 4, Det bødes der for (A Moment of Pleasure, and Age of Pain)
- Viser og vers (Songs and Verses) (5), FS 14 (Op. 6): No 5, Vise af Mogens (Song from Mogens)
- Fremtidens land (The Land of the Future), song for voice and piano, FS 145
- Strophic Songs (7), for voice and piano, FS 42 (Op. 21): No 6, Husvild (Homeless)
- Strophic Songs (7), for voice and piano, FS 42 (Op. 21): No 7, Godna (Good Night)
- Fire Jydske sange (Jutish Songs) (4), for voice and piano, FS 115: Jens Madsen a An-Sofi (Jens Madsen)
- Fire Jydske sange (Jutish Songs) (4), for voice and piano, FS 115: Wo Dætter (Our Daughter)
- Fire Jydske sange (Jutish Songs) (4), for voice and piano, FS 115: Den Jenn a den Anden (One and the Other)
- Fire Jydske sange (Jutish Songs) (4), for voice and piano, FS 115: Ae Lastræ (The Haypole)
- Balladen om bjørnen (The Ballad of the Bear), song for voice and piano, Op. 47 (FS 109)
- Guldfloden (The Golden River), song for voice and piano, FS 127
- Danmark, nu blunder den lyse Nat (Denmark, now sleeps the pale Night), song for voice and piano, FS 146
- Dansk vejr (Danish Weather), song for voice and piano, FS 122
- Gensyn (Reunion), song for voice and piano, FS 151: Gensyn
- En snes danske vise (20 Danish Songs), FS 70: Hun mig har glemt (She Knows Me Not)
- En snes danske vise (20 Danish Songs), FS 70: Min lille Fugl (My Little Bird)
- En snes danske vise (20 Danish Songs), FS 70: Farvel min velsignede Fødeby (Farewell, My Blessed Town of Birth)
- En snes danske vise (20 Danish Songs), FS 70: De Refsnædrenge, de Samsøpiger (The Refsnæs Lads, the Samsø Lasses)
- En snes danske vise (20 Danish Songs), FS 70: Se dig ud Sommerdag (Look Around, One Summer Day)
- En snes danske vise (20 Danish Songs), FS 70: Nu lyser Løv i Lunde (The Groves Are Shining Green Now)
- En snes danske vise (20 Danish Songs), FS 70: Morgendug der sagte bæver (Morning Dew Which Gently Trembles)
- En snes danske vise (20 Danish Songs), FS 70: Rungsteds Lyksaligheder: I kølende Skygger (The Joys of Rungsted: In Cooling Shadows)
- En snes danske vise (20 Danish Songs), FS 70: Hjemstavn (My Native Soil)
Other recordings of music by Carl Nielsen:
- Carl Nielsen: Orchestral Music
- Carl Nielsen: Symphonies
- Carl Nielsen: Chamber Music, Vol. 1
- Carl Nielsen: String Quartets, Vol. 2 [Hybrid SACD]
- Carl Nielsen: Violin Concerto & Songs; Rued Langgaard: String Quartet No. 3
- Carl Nielsen: Complete Symphonies (Box Set)
- Nielsen: Orchestral Works
- Carl Nielsen: Complete Piano Works
- Carl Nielsen: Complete Symphonies 1-6 - London Symphony Orchestra / Ole Schmidt
- Carl Nielsen: Symphony No. 2 "The Four Temperaments"; Aladdin Suite
- Nielsen: Clarinet Concerto & Works for clarinet & orch.
- Carl Nielsen: Symphony No. 5/Bohemian-Danish Folk Tune/Symphonic Rhapsody
- Carl Nielsen: String Quartets Op. 5 & 13Carl Nielsen: Songs
- Carl Nielsen: Chamber Works for Wind
- Carl Nielsen: Chamber Works for Violin & Strings
- Jean Sibelius / Carl Nielsen: Violin Concertos