Carl Nielsen, Little Suite for Strings (Nonet), Op.1

Carl Nielsen Carl Nielsen's Little Suite for Strings began life as a string quintet for 2 violins, viola, cello and bass. His teacher and mentor Niels Gade, when shown the score with its density of the writing, suggested that it would be more effective for a larger ensemble such as an octet or nonet. Nielsen reworked the quintet and added divided parts for the four upper voices so that it became a nonet. The changes made were surprisingly minor and the Suite can still be played by a string quintet although without the fullness of sound of the second version. It was completed and published in 1888 as his Op.1, although he had already published a number of other works by this time. Nielsen's publisher, no doubt with an eye toward sales, insisted on the title Little Suite for Strings and not Nonet. An unfortunate result of this is that today we often hear it performed by the full string sections of symphony orchestras, for which it was never intended, rather than a string nonet or small chamber orchestra.

The Suite begins in a serious vein with a dark and moody Praeludium. The graceful middle movement, Intermezzo, is full of good humor. It commences with a lilting waltz and then is followed by a more energetic dance section which has a vague Viennese quality to it. The finale begins with a short restatement of the gloomy Praeludium but soon the music takes wing, rushing into a high flying Allegro con brio of exciting exuberance. Though momentarily, a few storm clouds appear, the music sweeps forward to a triumphant conclusion.

Nielsen was born on the island of Fyn (Funen) and eventually entered the Royal Danish Conservatory in Copenhagen where he studied violin and composition with the famous composer Niels Gade. He himself became Denmark's leading composer during the first part of the 20th century.

We offer this work as a nonet--2 Violins I, 2 Violins II, 2 Violas, 2 Cellos and Bass. Additional parts can be ordered.

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