Category Archives: Carl Nielsen (Danish composer)

“Den milde dag er lys og lang”



I continue to be enchanted by Carl Nielsen’s songs.

He wrote hundreds of them.

In my post

Carl Nielsen, “Fynsk Foraar” (“Springtime in Funen”)


I mentioned the baritone solo in the piece: “Den milde dag er lys og lang” (The mild day is bright and long).

I have found two recordings of it:


by the Danish tenor (and later baritone) Aksel Schiøtz (1906-1975). He does it beautifully. The recording is a bit scratchy.




by the Danish tenor Michael Kristensen











Den milde dag er lys og lang

Aage Berntsen, 1921 (Fra Fynsk Forår)


1. Den milde dag er lys og lang
og fuld af sol og fuglesang,
og alt er såmænd ganske godt,
når blot, når blot, når blot,
når blot vor nabos Ilsebil
vil det, som jeg så gerne vil
vil lægge kinden mod min kind
med samme varme sind,

2. vil række mig sin lille hånd
med samme redebonne ånd,
vil lukke øjet som til blund
og give mig sin mund!
Ja, dagen den er lys og lang,
og der er nok af fuglesang,
men jeg er bange, Ilsebil
vil ikke det, jeg vil!

3. Bag hækken kommer Ilsebil –
mon det er mig, hun smiler til?
Hun bærer mælk i klinket fad
og giver katten mad.
Å se, nu smiler hun igen,
min Ilsebil, min egen ven –
det er, som selve solens skin
faldt i mit hjerte ind.



The Mild Day Is Light and Long (1921)

words by Aage Berntsen (from “Springtime in Funen”)


1. The mild day is light and long
and full of sun and birdsong,
and everything is quite good,
just when, just when
just reach our neighbor’s Ilsebil
want what I would like to do
will put the cheek on my cheek
with the same warm mind,

2. will reach me his little hand
with the same red-minded spirit,
will close the eye like to nap
and give me his mouth!
Yes, the day it is light and long,
and there are plenty of birdsong,
but I’m afraid, Ilsebil
do not want what I want!

3. Behind the hedge comes Ilsebil –
Mon, it’s me she’s smiling for?
She carries milk in a grated dish
and gives the cat food.
To see, now she smiles again,
my Ilsebil, my own friend –
It’s like the sun’s skin
fell into my heart.


(The English translation is from Google Translate and is no doubt imperfect.)



— Roger W. Smith

    May 2018

Carl Nielsen, “Fynsk Foraar” (“Springtime in Funen”)







Funen, April 22, 2018; photo by Roger W. Smith



Arslev 4-22-2018

Funen, April 22, 2018; photo by Roger W. Smith



It should be noted that this lovely and charming choral work is autobiographical. The composer, Carl Nielsen (1865-1931), was born and raised on the island of Funen (Danish: Fyn). “Fynsk foraar” means “springtime in Funen.”

I finally got to Funen on a trip this April.

The recording posted here is of a landmark LP featuring the Danish conductor Mogens Wöldike, who studied under Nielsen and knew him personally. I bought this rare recording in New York City in the mid-1970’s for $10. It was a sort of big expense for me then.

I find enchanting the melodies and also the underling rhythms. Listen, for instance, to the soprano solo “Å se, nu kommer våren” (O see, spring is coming); and the baritone solo which follows immediately, “Den milde dag er lys og lang” (The mild day is bright and long), which brings tears to my eyes.





The cantata is divided into the following sections:

Som en græsgrøn plet (Like a grass-green spot)

Å se, nu kommer våren (O see, spring is coming)

Den milde dag er lys og lang (The mild day is bright and long)

Der har vi den aldrende sol igen (There we see the ageing sun again)

Til dansen går pigerne arm i arm (To the dance, girls walk arm in arm)

Jeg tænder min pibe i aftenfred (I light my pipe in the evening’s peace)

Og månen jeg ser (And I see the moon)

Den blinde spillemand (The blind fiddler)

Nu vil vi ud og lege (Now we will go and play)

De gamle (The old folk)

Dansevisen (Dance song)


A libretto in Danish and English is posted here.


Danish libretto


English libretto




— Roger W. Smith

   May 2018





from Wikipedia:


Fynsk Foraar (Springtime on Funen), for soloists, chorus and orchestra, Opus 42, is Carl Nielsen’s last major choral work. Written to accompany a prize-winning text by Aage Berntsen, it was first performed in Odense’s Kvæghal (Cattle Hall) on July 8, 1922 where it was conducted by Georg Høeberg.


Auage Berntsen, a medical doctor and a writer, was the winner of a competition arranged around 1917 by the Dansk Korforening (Danish Choral Society) for a text on Danish history or landscape which would subsequently be set to music by Carl Nielsen. Several years went by before the composer could find the time or inclination to work on the piece, especially as he was in the middle of composing his Fifth Symphony. Indeed, on August 19, 1921, he wrote: “For some time I have not felt very comfortable because I could not get started on the choral work which I must have done by 1 September, and every day I considered throwing it away and informing the board of all these combined societies that I had to beg off… But then one day I found the tone and the style, which will be a light mixture of lyricism and humor, and now it is well in hand and will soon be finished.

Only with the help of his pupil Nancy Dalberg, who had helped with fair-copying the large score for Aladdin was he able to meet his deadline. On September 3, 1921, he wrote to his wife: “My new choral piece has turned out to be a really big piece of work (42 pages in the piano arrangement) and has now actually been delivered on time. But I have also worked a lot and with a certain lightness. The poet has called it Springtime on Funen but I also give it a subtitle, Lyrical Humoresque, which suggests that the style is light and lively. … Now I will continue with my interrupted symphony.”


The first performance of Fynsk Foraar was at the opening concert of Third National Choral Festival which took place on July 8, 1922 in the huge Odense Kvæghal (Cattle Hall), specially renamed Markedshallen (Market Hall) for the occasion. The circumstances were not ideal. While Nielsen had envisaged the work for a fairly small orchestra and choir, there were 80 in the orchestra and several hundred in the choirs from Funen and Copenhagen. The hall itself could accommodate up to 10,000 people.

The day after the concert, Politiken commented: “Enthusiastic applause rewarded the choral work. The composer and poet were called for in vain. Neither was present.” Nielsen had in fact explained a few days earlier that he was not feeling up to travelling to Odense. Most reviewers agreed that the work had not been performed in the right venue. N.O. Raasted, writing for a local newspaper Fyns Tidende was frank: “So light and graceful, so witty and veiled is the language spoken here that several of the work’s beautiful passages could only be lost in a performance under such circumstances! We look forward to hearing it all again in the not too distant future if the work can be presented in circumstances that are more favorable to its appreciation.”

Another local newspaper Fyens Stiftstidende commented on the work’s regional tone: “There was the greatest interest in the next item in the concert, Aage Berntsen’s and Carl Nielsen’s never-before-performed work for soloists, choir and orchestra, Springtime on Funen. Rarely have a poet and composer been so fortunate in finding the fullest expression of the distinctive atmosphere and emotional life of a Danish region. The Funen islanders totally lack the capacity to take themselves too seriously. As true sons of the Funen soil, Berntsen and Carl Nielsen have therefore made Springtime on Funen a humoresque; but no less distinctively, the humoresque bears the stamp of the lyrical, for among the Danes the people of Funen remain those who abandon themselves most easily to the play of the emotions.”

In the meantime, Nielsen was planning his own performance of the work at the Music Society (Musikforeningen) in Copenhagen. In a letter dated June 29, 1922 to the composer Rudolf Simonsen, he describes how he would like it performed under his own baton: “III myself: Springtime on Funen small orchestra: light and gay and graceful as my humble talents can manage.” The work was indeed presented by the Music Society at the first concert of the season on November 21, 1922.

Axel Kjærulf, writing in Politiken, was full of praise for the work: “It is enchantingly formed, so light and bright, so full and fertile, so simple and inward. In each strophe one recognizes Carl Nielsen’s Danish tone, but here sweeter and truer than before. He is intimate with everything — and the rest of us get as close as possible to this often so inaccessible man — and grow fond of him.”


Fynsk Foraar is often considered Nielsen’s most popular choral work, especially in Denmark. Nielsen gave it the subtitle “lyric humoresque”, aptly describing its simple, folk-like idiom and its compact form. Scored for a four-part chorus, soprano, tenor, and baritone soloists, a children’s chorus and a small chamber orchestra, the 18-minute cantata consists of several independent sections tied together with orchestral transitions. The choral writing is largely diatonic and homophonic. The solo melodies contain frequent alternations between major and minor tonalities.

This work is often cited as the most Danish of all Nielsen’s compositions; this seems borne out as the chorus and soloists extol a countryside replete with grass, water lilies, and gnarled apple trees blooming.





“Interrupting his work on the Fifth Symphony in 1921 Nielsen turned (fulfilling a promise he had given) to lighter things in Springtime on Fyn (Fynsk Foraar); this he called a ‘Lyric Humoresque.’ One could not imagine him, like Benjamin Britten, calling such a work a ‘Spring Symphony’; he took the symphony too seriously and mastered it too powerfully to use its name pretentiously: the sub-title ‘Lyric Humoresque’ is in this case a precise description of the work, as it would be of Britten’s. This is one of the most Danish of all Nielsen’s works, and it recaptures all the charm and fascination of that sunny childhood he described so perfectly in My Childhood on Fyn …: the musical idiom is the simplest imaginable, folk-like and gay, picturing his own native environment with the kind of truthfulness and subtlety that come only from real vitality, however modest the aims. Danish as this work is it would, with a simple translation of the rustic and touching words by Aage Berntsen, easily find its way into English hearts. It is scored for moderate resources, four-part chorus, soprano, tenor, and baritone soloists, children’s chorus, and a small orchestra without trombones—ideal, in fact, for the reasonably well-developed amateur musical society; at the same time, its gaiety and poetry are such that a first-class professional performance must inevitably reveal it as an exquisite work of art.”


— Robert Simpson, Carl Nielsen: Symphonist (New York: Taplinger Publishing Company, 1979)




One day we were in the garden. Father stood looking in at the pig. Mother was hanging clothes out, and I was weeding. Two travelling journeymen came past. They were dusty, carried knapsacks on their backs, and looked rather wretched. Seeing the pump near the cottage, they asked for a drink. Mother asked if they would rather not have beer, in which case they could come in. I heard Father say she was not to invite such ruffians in, but Mother answered, “Niels, dear, just think if they were two of our own boys.” Father said nothing, but I could clearly see that he was struck by the reply.


— Carl Nielsen, “My Childhood on Funen,” pg. 91






As I would have done (not to pat myself on the back).

As my father or mother would have done.

As our Lord would have done.


— Roger W. Smith

   February 2018

Carl Nielsen, “Helios Overture”






Posted here is the Helios Overture by the Danish composer Carl Nielsen. The Helios Overture, Opus 17, is a concert overture which was first performed in Copenhagen in 1903.

A Wikipedia entry provides background information about the piece.

Carl Nielsen wrote many short orchestral works, one of the most famous being the Helios Overture.

In 1902, Nielsen signed a contract with the publisher Wilhelm Hansen which allowed him to go to Athens, Greece to join his wife, Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen, who was one of the first sculptors allowed to make copies of the bas-reliefs and statues in the Acropolis Museum.

Anne Marie was studying Greek art, while Nielsen, being a man of many interests, was interested in archaeology. The local conservatory placed a study room with a piano at Carl Nielsen’s disposal. Here he could sit and compose when he was not on excursions in the surrounding mountains with or without Anne Marie.

Nielsen’s stay in Athens gave him the inspiration of a work depicting the sun rising and setting over the Aegean Sea, an overture which he called Helios. He began work on it in March 1903 and finished it on April 23 of the same year.

The score is written for three flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, and strings.

The work begins as the sun ascends over the Aegean Sea, while strings, divided horns and woodwind sound a melody. This rises out of the darkness to a full orchestra, where fanfaring trumpets begin a striding theme, which returns later in the piece. From there woodwinds begin a graceful tune, from which brass sound. Strings begin to play, which draws the orchestra into a reprise of the striding theme and its fanfare. In the final measures, the music subsides as the sun sinks over the horizon of the sea.



On the score, Nielsen wrote:

“Silence and darkness,
The sun rises with a joyous song of praise,
It wanders its golden way
and sinks quietly into the sea.”



— Roger W. Smith

   January 2018






See also:


Haydn, symphony No. 6 in D major (“Le matin”)



Carl Nielsen in 1901.jpg

Carl Nielsen in 1901

Carl Nielsen, songs (sange)



Carl Nielsen, songs (sange)










I don’t understand why Danish composer Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) is not better known outside of his native land. He has gained recognition, thanks to performances by conductors such as Leonard Bernstein, but …

Nielsen’s output of songs was prolific and outstanding.  He composed over 290 songs and hymns.

Posted here are:

Nielsen, “Twelve Songs” (Tolv Sange), copied from an old LP of mine

12 of my personal favorites (not from the LP)



— Roger W. Smith