Explore the works of

A preview of our collection of performances featuring the works of Danish composer, conductor, and violinist, widely regarded as the foremost Danish classical music figure.

About Nielsen

Never has a Danish composer's name lingered on so many people's lips as Carl August Nielsen's (1865 - 1931). Best known for his skill as a symphonist, Nielsen bosted an unique ability to infuse classical forms with Danish folk melodies and rhythms, while also embracing modernist techniques. The result is a vibrant and purely his musical style, replicated and celebrated to this day.

Born into a large family of humble means in the summer of 1865, Nielsen's musical talent flowed through his veins; his father was a farm labourer, painter and musician, and his mother had a nack for music too. At the age of six, Carl took up the three-quarter size violin, and at fourteen started playing in Odense's military orchestra; there, he learned, besides the violin, several different brass instruments.

Poverty kept Nielsen from going any further, until he managed to muster up enough 'kroner' to buy himself an old piano from a watchmaker. Eagerly, he started composing ‘without the slightest theoretical knowledge’ dance music, music for marching band, and even a string quartet, ‘without any originality, but fresh and alive’.

After completing his studies in the music conservatory on a scholarship, Nielsen debuted as a composer in the fall of 1887 with two movements for string orchestra at the Tivoli Concert Hall. His first mature work, nowadays known as 'Little Suite for Strings', premiered there as welll the following year.

In 1902, Nielsen would premiere his Symphony No. 2, 'The Four Temperaments', fully unveiling his gift of composing to the rest of the world. The work established him as a composer to be saught out; and, in the decades that followed, many more critically-acclaimed symphonies came - Symphony No. 4, 'The Inextinguishable', and Symphony No. 5, to name a few.

Each of Nielsen's new works revealed new facets of his genius, with their innovative orchestration, dynamic energy, and profound emotional depth. His work's most moving tendencies mirrored Nielsen's bigger-than-life personal woes, particularly during his 'psychological period', which lasted from 1897 to 1904. Nielsen's worries mostly stemmed from his troubled marriage with sculptor Anne Marie Brodersen.

Following a series of heart attacks, Nielsen died in 1931, surrounded by his family. Despite maintaining a reputation as an outsider composer, both in Denmark and abroad, many of his works found their way into the international repertoire after his death, thanks to Leonard Bernstein and others' advocacy. In Denmark, his legacy was cemented in 2006 when the Danish Ministry of Culture listed four of his works among the country's greatest classical pieces.

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