The dual sense of childlike innocence and devilish improvisation is brought to the foreground in the Three Piano Pieces
Op 59, which Nielsen composed in 1928 but which were not published until 1937, six years after his death. Contemporary with the sixth symphony and the two late concertos for flute and clarinet, the Three Pieces
sound almost like a distillation of the earlier Suite
Op 45, but here there is little sense of a carefully crafted tonal process. Although the third piece ends dramatically with a craggy fanfare in E flat major, the final bars are effective precisely because they are unexpected and largely unprepared. Rather, it is the music’s sense of characterization—almost like a piece of abstract music-theatre—that is the work’s structural driving force. Hence, Nielsen can be heard as paralleling tendencies in the work of two great Continental modernists from the younger generation—Schoenberg and Stravinsky—even as he approaches the end of his own creative life. At times the Three Pieces
are Nielsen’s most challenging and innovative work, but there is little sense of stylistic tension or strain, rather the continuation of a process of invention and imagination that had been apparent from his very earliest piano compositions.
from notes by Daniel Grimley © 2008