Carl Nielsen, the OG of Danish Music

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    Born in June 1865, he rose from schoolboy fiddler to be conductor at the Royal Theatre and Denmark’s premier composer, ending his life as leader of the conservatory he had once attended on a full scholarship. Alongside his propulsive, complex orchestral works (like the fourth and sixth symphonies), he wrote catchy period pop tunes, choral, chamber, and theater music. Carl made sure there was something for everyone.


    100$ Bill

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    Kroner actually, but who’s counting? And Nielsen actually lent his face to his national currency — now that’s making your mark! Until the recent May 2010 reprinting, Nielsen’s face graced the most popular Danish bank note, the 100 Kroner Bill, as one of his country’s most significant cultural figures.


    I’m with the band

    Nielsen first picked up a (¾ size) violin at six, when he was stuck in bed with measles. Before long, he and his brothers were traipsing out for late nights with their father, playing dances and weddings to make extra cash in the local area. Perhaps getting people on the dance floor was where Nielsen’s instinct for a huge tune and a strong rhythm sprang from. He rode that beat straight into the army band as a teen bugler, speed practicing on all the required instruments when a place came up. He got the job, and used his second gig "party fund" to buy himself a piano and take violin lessons. He didn’t look bad in his uniform either.


    A thoroughly modern marriage

    Nielsen met and fell in love with his wife, Anne Marie Brodersen, when he was abroad studying in Paris.  But unlike many of her expat peers, AMB was a serious artist: a sculptor who refused to put the demands of marriage and motherhood ahead of her work. Despite frequent travel keeping the pair apart, their marriage lasted. Anne-Marie even designed the title page illustration for Nielsen's Hymnis Amoris cantata, to which he added the words: ‘‘all our aspiration shall be love, in life and in art." In both they were equals.


    The five commandments of Carl Nielsen 

    (We made these up but we think he’d agree)

    • Please yourself
    • Stay human
    • Keep growing
    • Look both ways (forward and back)
    • Laugh at yourself often


    Nielsen's Musings

    I do not enjoy composing music if I continue to do it in the same way.
    Sometimes I have the feeling that I am...something like an open tube through which a stream of music flows, moved by mild and powerful forces at a certain blissful frequency.
    Woe to the musician who does not have his eyes about him; who fails alike to learn and love the good things in the old masters and to watch and be ready for the new.
    The claims of life are stronger than the sublimest art.
    Old rules may be accepted or rejected at will...But let no man assume that he can relax his efforts on that account. It is up to you to listen, seek, think, reflect, weigh, and discard.
    The simplest is the hardest, the universal the most lasting, the straight the strongest.

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