Program Notes: A Greeting from Denmark

Written by Kimberley Manerikar

Little Suite, op. 1
Carl Nielsen (1865-1931)

Carl Nielsen finished his studies at the Copenhagen Conservatory in 1886.  For the next few years he made a living by performing as assistant violinist for several orchestras and by teaching chamber music and violin.  During this time he also pursued lessons in music composition with Orla Rosenhoff.  It was under Rosenhoff’s tutelage that Nielsen composed his Little Suite and it is to him that the piece is dedicated.

Little Suite was premiered at Tivoli Concert Hall on September 8, 1888 during the Great Nordic Industrial Exhibition.  The piece was very well received; the second movement waltz was repeated and Nielsen, who played with the expanded orchestra, was invited by the conductor to stand several times for applause.  A month later Little Suite would feature as the young composer’s conducting debut.

The first movement, Präludium, is the most compact movement of the three.  In the opening, a pulsating accompaniment underscores a solemn melody carried by the cello.  The movement builds toward an urgent climax.  When the opening melody returns its setting is quite transformed—the dark and somber opening now feels much lighter and more diffuse.  As the movement draws to a close the melody undergoes a long descent from the violins through the violas to its ultimate resting place in the resonant depths of the cellos and basses.

The second movement, Intermezzo, carries forward some of the features of the opening melody, building on the brief statement of the first movement.  While it too begins in a relatively serious tone the character of the waltz is propulsive, carrying the listener gradually out of darkness and into the light.

The Finale is the most substantive movement of the suite both in terms of its duration and its structure.  It is the only movement Nielsen revised after the 1888 premiere, adding a slow introduction which brings back the melody from movement one.  The ensuing sonata-allegro caps off the suite with an energetically-charged finale.

Nordic Suite (arr. Sørensen)
Danish String Quartet

Violinists Frederik Øland and Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen and violist Asbjørn Nørgaard (members of the Danish String Quartet) met in their youth at a summer camp for amateur musicians and have been playing together ever since.  They were joined by cellist Fredrik Schøyen Sjölin in 2008 and together have garnered critical acclaim winning numerous international string quartet and chamber music competitions, receiving the Carl Nielsen Prize (the highest cultural honor in Denmark) in 2011, and earning a Grammy nomination for best chamber music performance in 2018.

The Danish String Quartet are one of those rare ensembles that seem equally at home playing staples of the Classical and Romantic string quartet repertoire and playing folk tunes dating back a thousand years.  Beginning as a couple of encores and growing into a substantial collection, their arrangements of Nordic folk songs bridge the gap between their twin loves. Nordic Suite comprises five short folk arrangements featured on their albums Wood Works and Last Leaf.  Each piece was arranged by violinist Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen and later collected into a suite with the instrumentation expanded for performance by string orchestra.

I. Overture: Ye Honest Bridal Couple
II. Scherzo: Stӕdelil
III. Hymn: Now Found is the Fairest of Roses
IV. Menuet: Menuet no. 60
V. Finale: The Dromer

The Victoria Symphony performs on the traditional lands of the Lekwungen peoples and acknowledges with respect the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples whose historical relationships with the land continues to this day. We extend our appreciation for the opportunity to live, create, and perform on this territory.