It is not surprising, perhaps, that Nielsen’s first published work for the piano, the Five Piano Pieces
Op 3, belongs essentially in the earlier category. Nielsen may have composed two of the pieces, Nos 2 and 5, as early as 1887–9, although the complete set was not assembled until 1890–91, while he was away from Denmark on his first trip abroad. The set is characteristically diverse in mood and expression. The opening number, ‘Folk Tune’, is in a somewhat stylized Jugendstil vein, although Nielsen adds the Danish direction ‘nynnende’ (‘humming’) to the opening bar. The third number, ‘Arabesque’, is remarkable for its sense of harmonic waywardness—a significant foreshadow of his later compositional idiom. Before publication, Nielsen referred to the piece as ‘Fanden’ (‘The Devil’), and the music is prefaced by a quotation from the symbolist poet Jens Peter Jacobsen: ‘Har Du faret vild i dunkle Skove? Kjender Du Pan?’ (‘Have you lost your way in the dark forest? Do you know Pan?’).
from notes by Daniel Grimley © 2008