This CD is considerably enriched by Bine Bryndorf’s detailed and informative booklet-notes. Another plus point is that she plays the fine three-manual, 44-stop organ in Copenhagen’s former St Nicholas church. Dating from 1930, this instrument is exactly contemporaneous with Nielsen’s organ works. It has lovely soft registers and a well-blended tutti – ideal for this repertoire.
The 29 Little Preludes and a few miscellaneous works are concise pieces, suitable for liturgical use. They are straightforward compositions, with Baroque-like fugal textures and chordal writing in the manner of Bach and Mendelssohn. Only the occasional unusual harmonies and sudden key changes place this music in the early 20th century. Bryndorf’s excellent performances have calm, unhurried tempos, and her imaginative use of the organ gives each of the 29 Preludes their own unique tone colour. The CD also includes the majestic Festival Prelude for the New Century and six of Nielsen’s Hymns and Spiritual Songs. These latter pieces have simple chorale melodies, which are beautifully sung by the baritone Torsten Nielsen.
In contrast, Commotio occupies a more complex musical landscape. Given that it was inspired by the playing of the virtuoso German organist Karl Straube – a noted interpreter of Max Reger – it’s no surprise to find florid contrapuntal writing and extremely varied dynamics. However, Nielsen’s adventurous harmonic language belongs firmly in the 20th century. One can detect an awareness of Schoenberg’s atonal style, alongside pre-echoes of Hindemith’s organ sonatas and Sorabji’s symphonies. Bryndorf’s controlled, measured tempos (possibly a touch too slow in places) and carefully chosen dynamics enable Nielsen’s visionary composition to be heard with exemplary clarity. (Christopher Nickol / Gramophone)