Nielsen: Piano Music

Reviewed on Thu 14 May, 2015

Hats off to Somm for at long last restoring to the catalogue this superb Nielsen collection (first issued on two Decca Ace of Diamonds LPs in 1975) featuring the much-missed composer/pianist John McCabe on consummately poised and understanding form. The repertoire spans some four decades, embracing early offerings such as the Op 3 Five Pieces (1890), meaty Symphonic Suite (1894) and disarming Humoresque Bagatelles (1897), those three toweringly eloquent and nourishing masterpieces – namely the Chaconne (1916), Theme and Variations (1917) and Suite (1919) – which date from between the Fourth and Fifth symphonies, as well as a couple of late works, the intriguingly elliptical Three Piano Pieces (1928) and two books of teaching pieces entitled Piano Music for Young and Old that Nielsen completed in 1930 (the year before his death). I can report that McCabe's sensitive and lucid interpretations give enormous pleasure throughout. The eminently truthful 1973-74 recordings were originally supervised by Bob Auger, and they have been impeccably transferred here by Paul Arden-Taylor. No Nielsen and/or McCabe devotee can afford to overlook this valuable set.
–Andrew Achenbach