Composers: Rating Nielsen

A few years ago, a Scandinavian composer proclaimed: "I believe in Bach, Mozart, Carl Nielsen, and absolute music." Carl Nielsen? At the mention of the Danish composer's name, most non-Scandinavians could only look blank or grope for their music dictionaries. Nielsen's reputation in his homeland had been supreme since his death in 1931 at 66, but unlike his Finnish contemporary Jean Sibelius, he was a nobody in the European and especially the U.S. music world.

Until recently, that is. In 1962 Leonard Bernstein began programming his works in New York Philharmonic concerts and spurred wider interest through a series of...

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