Exploring the Symphonies of Carl Nielsen

A personal sound story by Mathias Hammer

In six programs, P2 host Mathias Hammer explores the six symphonies of Carl Nielsen. His starting point is his enthusiasm for Nielsen's music. But he also wonders and looks for answers:

What is the essence of Carl Nielsen's symphonies? What do they say about the composer? How do they speak to us today?

As he strives to get to the core of the symphonies, the narrator explores the story of their creation, reads the composer's letters, listens to recordings and sits down with the sheet music at the piano.

The style is personal. Mathias is on a quest to understand why the six symphonies speak to him so powerfully.

Along the way, he talks with experts, including conductor Michael Schønwandt, music critic Jakob Levinsen and composer Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen. He moreover puts Carl Nielsen's musical message in perspective with the help of an astrophysicist, a museum head, a vicar and a couple's therapist. Each program is approximately 30 minutes long and is followed by the symphony in its entirety.

Exploring the symphonies of Carl Nielsen 1:6

P2 host and pianist Mathias Hammer delves into Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 1. Looking for the reason for the symphony's optimistic tone, he finds answers in the composer's newfound love and the atmosphere of Copenhagen in the 1890s. Along the way, he is helped by conductor Michael Schønwandt, music critic Jakob Levinsen and historian Barbara Zalewski.

Exploring the symphonies of Carl Nielsen 2:6

In his Symphony No. 2, "The Four Temperaments," Carl Nielsen not only portrays the human archetypes, he describes the whole person. Based on the music, Mathias Hammer delves into the basic colours of the mind and into Carl Nielsen the person. Along the way, he talks with couple's therapist Dorthe Nørlev, conductor Michael Schønwandt and music critic Jakob Levinsen.

Exploring the symphonies of Carl Nielsen 3:6

Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 3, "Espansiva," is a symphonic creation story. It begins with astronomical energy in the first movement but later runs out of steam and ends with something that sounds like a melody out of the Danish Folk High School Songbook. Why? As he looks for answers, Mathias Hammer gets help from conductor Michael Schønwandt, music critic Jakob Levinsen and astrophysicist Tina Ibsen.

Exploring the symphonies of Carl Nielsen 4:6

Carl Nielsen wrote his Symphony No. 4, "The Inextinguishable," in the fatal year of 1914, when world war and personal crisis made life difficult for him. The music is rife with conflict and dissonance, yet it ends in triumph. What is the composer trying to express? Mathias Hammer interprets the symphony's message, drawing parallels to other art forms. He gets help from conductor Michael Schønwandt, Professor Martin Zerlang of the University of Copenhagen, and Peter Nørgaard Larsen, Head of Collection and Research at the Danish National Gallery.-

Exploring the symphonies of Carl Nielsen 5:6

Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 5 is like a battle between good and evil, but there is no winner. Rather, there is an acceptance of contrasting coexistence. That's the conclusion when Mathias Hammer explores Carl Nielsen's second-to-last symphony. Along the way, he is helped by conductor Michael Schønwandt, music critic Jakob Levinsen and vicar Anna Mejlhede.

Exploring the symphonies of Carl Nielsen 6:6

Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 6 stands distinctly apart from his previous symphonies. Is it written by a composer blindly groping for new ways to go? Or is it actually a masterpiece, way ahead of its time? Looking for answers, Mathias Hammer gets help from conductor Michael Schønwandt, music critic Jakob Levinsen and composer Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen.

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