Danish music -
Nevertheless, the commanding heights are occupied by Langgaard's arch enemy Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) in the sense that Danish music from the 1890s to the 1930s is virtually synonymous with this composer's vast output. To the image of Nielsen belongs the "Aladdin myth" of the poor boy who knew folk music from his cradle and military band music from his adolescence, and who – like Hans Christian Andersen, who also hailed from Funen – left his rural surroundings to win fame and fortune in the capital without ever forgetting his roots. Nielsen combines folk cultural expression in his huge output of songs with high culture as exemplified in his six symphonies, concertos, and chamber music. There seems to be something typically Danish about this complex cultural ideal.
Carl Nielsen's Danish songs, including smash hits like Jens Vejmand (1909), earned him popularity far beyond the ranks of musical conoisseurs. The great symphonies, where he struggles with some of the same existential and aesthetic problems as contemporary international modernism, are probably his most important works and Denmark's weightiest contribution to the history of music. There is an evolution from the First Symphony (1892), which still exploits classical form and tonal vocabulary, via the more experimental elements in the Sinfonia espansiva (1910) to the Fourth Symphony, entitled The Inextinguishable (1916), where Nielsen composes the basic message that Music is Life.
Nor should we forget Nielsen's operas. The Biblical Saul and David is oratorio-like, while the Holberg opera Masquerade is full of the wit, humour, and love of Mozart that is also part of the composer's musical physiognomy.
Danish musical history in the eighteenth century focuses to a great extent on the musical activities of the court and the Royal Seat of Copenhagen. But evidence that there was musical life among the aristocracy outside the capital is provided by considerable collections of music at the stately homes and palaces of Tranekær on the island of Langeland, Valdemars Slot on Tåsinge and Ålholm on Lolland. In the city of Odense on Funen, from 1772, as a spin-off from these activities, public concerts were given; and at Odense Theatre from 1791 on one could regularly see German and French Singspiel and opéra-comique. It was among the music preserved from the Odense Club under Mozart's name that the A minor symphony KV 16a was found in 1982.
18th century | 19th century | 20th century | Danish jazz Danish music in the 16th and 17th centuries