A Korean conducting Nielsen? It's a tribute to the all-around musicianship of the young Myung-whun Chung that he leads one of the most convincing versions ofSym. 3 after Bernstein's. The Danes have monopolized the Nielsen discography, with nods to Finland and Sweden, yet if you set Chung's "Espansiva" next to those from Berglund, Blomstedt, the recent Gilbert, and even the much-lauded Schonwandt, he finds more in the symphony's episodic moods than any of them. The whole work is permeated with a rare joy for a twentieth-century symphony, and Chung captures its bursting-at-the-seams jollity while knowing when to suddenly shift gears into tender, dreamy, and graceful music-making.
The album as a whole also makes for a satisfying all-Nielsen program. The overture to Nielsen's opera, Maskarade, should be played far more often. It's as rollicking as Ruslan and Ludmilla or Shostakovich's Festive Over., and Chung attacks it with exuberance. It's a drawback that the recorded sound, rare for BIS, is squeaky and out of balance, with the trumpets miked too close and the strings too far back. Nor is the Gothenburg orchestra, never one of my favorites, doing its best - this is pretty scrappy playing.
Things improve with the ebullient clarinet concerto, another work that should be played more often. Nielsen invented some new sounds for the instrument (such as a repeated deedle-deedle-deedle that's like a droll chortle), and he makes constant use of the snare drum, which is also prominent in the Fifth Sym It's too bad that the same melodic motif comes back too often, and there's more than a little aimlessness after the excellent first movement. Even so, clarinetist Olle Schill brings out the perky, mischievous side of the concerto better than anyone else I've heard.
The whole Chung cycle on BIS is worth exploring. He is a much underrated conductor on this side of the Atlantic, and he turns up with some surprising recordings outside his main repertoire, which is French.
Symphony 3 Opus 27