Throughout his life, Carl Nielsen had a great appetite for learning, striving constantly to improve his knowledge not only of the great Viennese classical tradition but also of earlier music. But his distinctive and individual voice has as much to do with the circumstances of his upbringing near Odense on the island of Funen in Denmark. He grew up in relative poverty, the son of musical parents. From his father he learned the violin and cornet and from his mother he imbibed a love of Danish folksong, which was to remain an important influence throughout his life. The 29 Little Preludes
Op 51, along with the Three Motets
Op 55, both dating from 1929, are among the fruits of his studies of early vocal polyphony and keyboard music. The Preludes, for organ or harmonium, are for the most part modest in their demands, aiming for clarity of expression and employing a relatively simple harmonic palette. But occasionally, as for instance in the quirky phrase-patterns of the eleventh prelude, or the figuration and distinctive take on chromatic harmony in No 28, one catches a glimpse of the Nielsen of the magnificent Commotio
which was to follow two years later.
from notes by Stephen Westrop © 2002