Carl Nielsen : Composer & Inventor of the Selfie?

Carl Nielsen : Composer & Inventor of the Selfie?

Carl Nielsen is one of history's most famed composers, and Denmark's most famous musical export. Nielsen's musical style is a rich infusion of Romantic lushness, with aspects of incorporating folk music. The Oxford University music professor Daniel Grimley qualifies Nielsen as "one of the most playful, life-affirming, and awkward voices in twentieth-century music" thanks to the "melodic richness and harmonic vitality" of his work. In all of his pieces is a universal language that has a wide appeal to many audiences.

Ahead of our concert on 8 October we thought we would explore some fun facts about Nielsen, his life, and his music. Enjoy. 

1. He loved the pub and it was there that he got an idea for the names of his symphony.

He explains: ‘On the wall of the room where I was drinking a glass of beer with my wife and some friends hung an extremely comical coloured picture, divided into four sections in which ‘the Temperaments’ were represented and furnished with titles: “The Choleric”, “The Sanguine", "The Melancholic" and "The Phlegmatic". My friends and I were heartily amused by the naivety of the pictures, their exaggerated expression and their comic earnestness. But how strangely things can sometimes turn out! I, who had laughed aloud and mockingly at these pictures, returned constantly to them in my thoughts, and one fine day I realised that these shoddy pictures still contained a kind of core or idea and – just think! – even a musical undercurrent! Some time later, then, I began to work out the first movement of a symphony…"

2. He was one of the first composers to take selfies (he loved the camera)

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Carl Nielsen posing for the camera

3. He composed very moving songs. If you love vocal music but have not heard Nielsen's then you are in for a treat.

4. He loved woodwind instruments his quintet (which is being featured in our concert) was written based on the personalities of his dear friends.

5. He appeared on the Danish hundred-kroner (around $23 AUD) bank note. Well, he was their most famous composer after all.

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Catch Nielsen's Wind Quintet in our next concert, Beethoven's Quintet, 8 October in the Utzon Room at the Sydney Opera House. We hope to see you there for a fun afternoon of music making.