London: Phaidon Press. 1997.
Summary for the Busy Executive: Mildly revelatory.
A fairly weak entry in Phaidon's composer series, Lawson's book
concentrates on the life and career of Nielsen. Unfortunately, there's
very little here that you can't find in a good encyclopedia article:
the boyhood on Fyn, his route to the conservatory, his early career, and
so on. To some extent, the Nielsen family refusal to release certain
of the composer's papers has hindered Lawson. I did, however, learn
a little more about the strains in the composer's marriage. His wife,
Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen, was probably the leading Danish sculptor of her
day. In short, both husband and wife had careers which demanded prolonged
separations from one another. Nielsen was unfaithful. Anne Marie may
have been as well. They formally separated for a number of years, but
reunited in the Twenties. Even so, they advised each other artistically
throughout their lives.
The book is especially weak on the music, the reason for reading about
Nielsen in the first place. The best part of the book may well be its
handsome production. The photographs are usually wonderful, and the two
snaps of Nielsen as a boy which face the title page extraordinary. I've
never seen photos of that era that weren't formally posed. The impish
Nielsen mugs outrageously. In many ways, it's a metaphor for much of
The book also includes a general catalogue of Nielsen's writings and
music as well as a discography. No surprise here, but Lawson leans
heavily toward British recordings.
If you have not yet heard Nielsen's music, don't read this book. If
you have heard something and want to know a bit about the man, you could
reasonably start here.
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