Carl Nielsen's Flute Concerto, 1st Performance in Paris 1926 with Holger Gilbert-Jespersen

 Reviews - from French and Danish Newspapers



Description of the Concert

Nielsen's Flute Concerto
Carl Nielsen, born in 1865 on the Danish island of Funen, is one of the most important and productive Scandinavian composers of the late 19th and early 20th Century. Although his work encompasses a variety of genres, he was outside his home primarily known for his symphonies. The Flute Concerto is one of his late neoclassical works. The two-movement composition was almost completed in 1926, one year after the completion of the Sixth Symphony, on an extended trip to Germany and Italy. Nielsen wrote his Flute Concerto for the Danish flutist Holger Gilbert-Jespersen, to whom it was also dedicated. Holger Gilbert-Jespersen studied the flute in Paris with Adolphe Hennebains and Philippe Gaubert and was greatly influenced in sound by the two French master flutists. In late 1926, the flute solo voice arrived by post (written on postcards) from Venice, Italy to the soloist because the composer, who had health problems, had to work until shortly before the date of the performance. After the last correction had been made on the train from Copenhagen to Paris, the premiere was held on 21 October 1926 at a concert of the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, invited by Gaubert the director and professor. For Nielsen, this evening, which was exclusively devoted to his work, was one of the "greatest experiences" of his life, The orchestra was conducted by
his son-in-law, Emil Telmányi, who was a violinist. The Salle Gaveau with its 1.500 seats was completely full - in the audience the famous composers Maurice Ravel and Arthur Honegger were present, and the latter wrote in his review of the concert: “the famous Conservatory Orchestra played great  and The Flute Concert was masterly performed with a delicate tone - there was a standing ovation and soloist Gilbert Jespersen "flûtiste de grande classe" - was called in several times”.

The tonal Flute Concerto is a neo-classical composition with features, which are also to be seen in the author’s individual handwriting. Nielsen is directly linked to the classical form, but does not go back to the standard model of the three-movement concert form. The opening Allegro moderato is an enhanced Sonata movement, in which some cadenzas are inserted. The cadenzas are played as a tour de force with great expression and freedom by Gilbert-Jespersen. It is followed by a free Rondo, which consists of sections of varying nature and pace. The interplay of factors and change is also evident at the level of the orchestra. As in a concert of Mozart's time the soloist will be accompanied by an ensemble of two oboes, two clarinets, two horns, two bassoons, bass trombone and a string orchestra. Nielsen extended this reduced sound system, however, by timpani and a bass trombone at the end of the Rondo finale. Performance time is approximately twenty minutes.

In addition to the effective presentation of the solo instrument the work is primarily impressive through its differentiated orchestration. Throughout the concert, there are extensive passages of chamber music character, in which individual instruments of the orchestra play in a dialogue with the flute, or join in a competition. Of particular special aural effect is the combination of the solo instrument with the drums and the bass trombone in the middle part of the first movement and in the final passage of the second movement.
This creates a both dramatic and humorous finale of Nielsens Flute Concerto, of which Gilbert-Jespersen takes advantage and makes an unsurpassed masterly interpretation.

Pianos d'Art, Gabriel Gaveau & Cie      Salle Gaveau


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Translation: Margit Schæffer