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Track(s) taken from CDA67591/2

Tema med variationer 'Theme and Variations', Op 40

composer
1917; FS81

Martin Roscoe (piano)
Recording details: June 2007
Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Produced by Michael George
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: June 2008
Total duration: 15 minutes 15 seconds

Cover artwork: Scutolo, 'The Marvel of Marvels' (1912) by Henry Brokman-Knudsen (1868-1933)
Musée de la Ville de Paris, Musée du Petit-Palais, France / Lauros / Bridgeman Art Library, London
 
1
Theme: Andante  [0'57]
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Other recordings available for download

Mina Miller (piano)

Reviews

'These new recordings are sonically the best yet. Roscoe is famed for his touch and his playing's delicacy and finesse is evident throughout' (Gramophone)

'Apart from Grieg, no Scandinavian composer has written for the piano with more individuality and insight than Nielsen … Martin Roscoe is right inside this music and guides us through its marvels with great subtlety and authority. His is the most eloquent account since the pioneering set by Arne Skjøld Rasmussen. Hyperion gives him vivid and natural recorded sound and there are outstanding notes by Daniel Grimley' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The piano music of Carl Nielsen is notable not only for its striking emotional power and radicalism but also for its transparency—for the writing is always unmistakably Nielsen … the album as a whole is a treasure-chest; it presents an entirely new slant for those not acquainted with Nielsen's music and broadens the field of vision significantly for those who are … this deserves to become a most conspicuous recording, and Hyperion's usual excellence in achieving a full-bodied, crystal-clear sound continues boldly forward' (International Record Review)

'The Symphonic Suite, the Chaconne, the magnificent Theme and Variations … are powerful, poetic, original in both idea and structure, widely varied in mood, impressively organic and as important in their way as any of Nielsens' remarkable symphonies. Martin Roscoe's technique withstands everything that the composer throws at it. He obviously belives in every note, as well he might' (The Sunday Times)

'Martin Roscoe demonstrates throughout this revealing double CD set [that Nielsen's piano music] is a canon of work that desperately needs attention … fantastic playing of compelling authority by one of Britain's finest pianists. A wonderful discovery' (The Herald)
The Theme and Variations Op 40, which Nielsen composed only a couple of months after finishing the Chaconne, follows a similar formal and expressive trajectory: a broad, asymmetrical arch which begins with a sense of relative repose before growing and reaching an anguished, dissonant climax, and then draws rapidly away towards a more balanced conclusion. The theme itself is a characteristically original conceit which exemplifies, in miniature, the principle of structural modulation in Nielsen’s music that Robert Simpson called ‘progressive tonality’—the process of shifting from one tonic (or home key) towards another across the progress of a work. Here, the theme begins in B minor, but Nielsen swiftly exploits the enharmonic transformation of G sharp (A flat) as a means of exploring new harmonic areas, and the theme eventually closes in G minor. The first variation then begins by punning on the structural status of F sharp as leading note (in G minor) and dominant (in B). The theme’s open harmonic structure drives the variations that follow, which grow in intensity much like the variations in the Chaconne. Variation 11 is a spiky ‘Capriccioso’, while Nielsen subtitles Variation 13 ‘Ostinato’, a number whose obstinate repeated figuration ultimately generates the dissonant climax of the work in Variation 15. From here, the piece subsides rapidly. Nielsen described the closing pages as ‘the wild response of a man who fights with his back to an iceberg and finally, as though drunk [ubbrioso] and exhausted by the conflict staggers away’, like a character gradually leaving the stage, bowed but ultimately undefeated—a state of being (and resilience) to which Nielsen himself could relate, following one of the most turbulent periods in his life.

from notes by Daniel Grimley © 2008

Le Thème et Variations, op. 40, composé tout juste deux mois après l’achèvement de la Chaconne, suit une trajectoire formelle et expressive similaire: une large arche asymétrique qui commence par un repos relatif et croît jusqu’à un apogée angoissé, dissonant, avant de se retirer rapidement vers une conclusion plus équilibrée. Le thème même présente une originalité caractéristique: il exemplifie en miniature le principe de modulation structurelle présent dans la musique de Nielsen et que Robert Simpson baptisa «tonalité progressive»—un procédé qui consiste à glisser, au fil de l’œuvre, d’une tonique (ou d’une tonalité principale) vers une autre. Ici, le thème démarre en si mineur, mais Nielsen ne tarde pas à exploiter la transformation enharmonique de sol dièse (la bémol) pour explorer de nouvelles contrées harmoniques, et le thème s’achève finalement en sol mineur. La première variation commence par jouer sur le double statut structurel de fa dièse, sensible (en sol mineur) et dominante (en si). La structure harmonique du thème, ouverte, donne l’impulsion aux variations suivantes, qui s’intensifient comme celles de la Chaconne. La Variation 11 est un «Capriccioso» ombrageux, tandis que la no 13, sous-titrée «Ostinato», est une pièce dont la figuration obstinée, répétée, finit par générer l’apogée dissonant de l’œuvre, à la Variation 15. Dès lors, la composition s’estompe rapidement en des pages conclusives que Nielsen dépeignit ainsi: «la folle réponse d’un homme qui lutte, le dos à un iceberg, et qui finalement part en titubant, comme ivre [ubbrioso] et épuisé par le conflit», tel un personnage quittant lentement la scène, courbé mais, en définitive, invaincu—un état (et une résilience) dans lequel le compositeur pouvait se reconnaître, après l’une des périodes les plus turbulentes de sa vie.

extrait des notes rédigées par Daniel Grimley © 2008
Français: Hypérion

Das Werk Thema und Variationen op. 40, das Nielsen nur ein paar Monate nach Abschluss der Chaconne komponierte, folgt einem ähnlichen Form- und Ausdruckskonzept: ein weiter, asymmetrischer Bogen, der mit einem Gefühl relativer Gelassenheit beginnt, anschwellend einen wütenden, dissonanten Höhepunkt erreicht und dann rasch zu einem ausgeglicheneren Abschluss gelangt. Das Thema ist ein typisch origineller Einfall, der en miniature das in Nielsens Musik herrschende Prinzip struktureller Modulation demonstriert, das Robert Simpson als „fortschreitende Tonalität“ bezeichnete—ein Prozess, bei dem man im Verlauf eines Werkes von einer Tonika (Ausgangstonart) zu einer neuen Tonika gelangt. Hier beginnt das Werk in h-Moll. Bald nutzt Nielsen allerdings die enharmonische Verwechslung von Gis (As) als ein Mittel, um neue harmonische Territorien zu erkunden. Das Thema schließt in g-Moll. Die erste Variation beginnt dann mit einem Spiel der unterschiedlichen harmonischen Deutungsmöglichkeiten von Fis, entweder als Leitton (in g-Moll) oder als Dominante (in H-Dur). Die offene harmonische Struktur des Themas treibt die darauf folgenden Variationen voran, die ihrerseits dann wie die Variationen in der Chaconne an Intensität zunehmen. Variation 11 ist ein stacheliges „Capriccioso“, der Variation 13 gab Nielsen den Untertitel „Ostinato“. Mit ihren hartnäckigen wiederkehrenden Phrasen bereitet diese Variation letztlich den dissonanten Höhepunkt des Werkes in der Variation 15 vor. Von hier entspannt sich das Geschehen rasch. Nielsen beschrieb die letzten Seiten als „die wilde Reaktion eines Mannes, der mit dem Rücken zur Wand kämpft und schließlich wie betrunken [ubbrioso] und vom Konflikt erschöpft von dannen schwankt“, wie eine Figur, die allmählich die Bühne räumt, betroffen aber letztlich unbesiegt—ein Gefühlszustand (und Widerstandsgeist), den Nielsen nach einer der turbulentesten Perioden seines Lebens selber kannte.

aus dem Begleittext von Daniel Grimley © 2008
Deutsch: Elke Hockings

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Nielsen: Complete Piano Music
CDA66231/22CDs Rights no longer controlled by Hyperion
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