Carl Nielsen

Carl Nielsen (1865-1931)

Nationality: Danish
Born: June 9, 1865, Sortelung, Funen Died: October 3, 1931, Copenhagen (age 66)

String Quartet No. 2 in f minor, Op. 5

(for 2 violins, viola and cello)
8:17 I. Allegro non troppo ma energico
6:25 II. Un poco adagio
5:38 III. Allegretto scherzando
5:50 IV. Allegro appassionato
Duration: 34 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1890 (age 24-25)
4 recordings, 9 videos
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Zapolski Quartet
Kubin Quartet
Koppel Quartet
I. Allegro non troppo ma energico
Koppel Quartet
II. Un poco adagio
Koppel Quartet
III. Allegretto scherzando
Koppel Quartet
IV. Allegro appassionato
Danish Quartet
(part 1 of 3)
Danish Quartet
(part 2 of 3)
Danish Quartet
(part 3 of 3)
From Edition Silvertrust

Carl NielsenFrom the opening bars of Carl Nielsen's String Quartet No.1, he immediately serves notice on the listener that this is not your typical late Romantic string quartet. His four string quartets are trail-blazing works, which long before Bartók began to write his, paved the way for some of the new paths into which chamber music flowed during the 20th century. They are engaging, fresh and new sounding.

Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) achieved international recognition as a composer and even today is regarded as Denmark’s most important 20th century composer. For many years his symphonies were widely performed. Unfortunately, this was not the case with his fine chamber music.

Nielsen was born on the island of Fyn (Funen), the seventh of twelve children. His father was a painter by trade, who also played the violin and cornet and as a result was much in demand as a village musician. Nielsen exhibited a talent for music at an early age. His father suggested he study a wind instrument so that he might pursue the career of a musician in a regimental band. Nielsen followed this path briefly but decided he wanted to study violin and to compose. So with the financial help of friends, he was able to attend the Royal Conservatory in Copenhagen where he studied with Niels Gade.

Completed in 1889, the Second Quartet exhibits all of the traits of his later works and was far ahead of most everything being written at the time. This fact will be driven home if you listen to the sound-bites and keep in mind that Mahler was 30; Verdi, Bruckner and Brahms were all still alive and composing. Within ten years, in part because of this work, Nielsen’s name was internationally known. During his lifetime, it was performed with some regularity in northern Europe.

The opening movement, Allegro non troppo ma energico, begins with turbulent urgency, created by the main theme’s syncopated rhythm and the 16th note accompaniment in the middle voices. The second theme, first heard in the cello and then completed by the violin is highly romantic. The slow movement, Un poco adagio, is a deeply felt, mildly sad lied. A very attractive and playful Allegretto scherzando comes next. The finale, Allegro appassionato, is filled with what was surely very adventurous tonality for 1890. It would have shocked the ears of his contemporaries, for whom Bruckner was outer tonal limit. The somewhat relentless opening is theme given out by the first violin. The development is quite exciting, using the same off-beat harmonic accompaniment that is in the first movement.

© Edition Silvertrust. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Related Composers

1900 WWI WWII Niels Gade (1817-1890) Johan Svendsen (1840-1911) Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) Nancy Dalberg (1881-1949) Emilius Bangert (1883-1962) Poul Schierbeck (1888-1949) Rudolph Simonsen (1889-1947) Rued Langgaard (1893-1952) Jørgen Bentzon (1897-1951) Flemming Weis (1898-1981) Herman D. Koppel (1908-1998)
Niels Gade (1817-1890)
Nationality: Danish
Born: February 22, 1817, Copenhagen Died: December 21, 1890, Copenhagen (age 73)
Jørgen Bentzon (1897-1951)
Nationality: Danish
Born: February 14, 1897, Copenhagen Died: July 9, 1951, Hørsholm (age 54)
Emilius Bangert (1883-1962)
Nationality: Danish
Born: August 9, 1883, Copenhagen Died: August 19, 1962, Roskilde (age 79)
Nancy Dalberg (1881-1949)
Nationality: Danish
Born: July 6, 1881, Bødstrup Died: September 28, 1949, Copenhagen (age 68)
Herman D. Koppel (1908-1998)
Nationality: Danish
Born: October 1, 1908, Copenhagen Died: July 14, 1998, Copenhagen (age 89)
Rued Langgaard (1893-1952)
Nationality: Danish
Born: July 28, 1893, Copenhagen Died: July 10, 1952, Ribe (age 59)
Flemming Weis (1898-1981)
Nationality: Danish
Born: April 15, 1898, Copenhagen Died: September 30, 1981, Hellerup (age 83)
Poul Schierbeck (1888-1949)
Nationality: Danish
Born: June 8, 1888, Copenhagen Died: February 9, 1949, Copenhagen (age 60)
Rudolph Simonsen (1889-1947)
Nationality: Danish
Born: April 30, 1889, Copenhagen Died: March 28, 1947, Copenhagen (age 57)