Carl Nielsen pulling faces.
  • Carl Nielsen pulling faces.
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It feels as though the San Diego Symphony just performed Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, but it was back in 2012. It feels like yesterday, but they are performing it again this coming weekend, and I’m hoping they follow my exalted recommendation and provide opiates with the program so we can get the full Berlioz effect.


Carl Nielsen's Flute concerto

Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra, Cond. John Frandsen. Jean Pierre Rampal

Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra, Cond. John Frandsen. Jean Pierre Rampal

They could cross market with Oxycontin manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, and give all subscribers a sample prescription. I should clarify that Oxycontin is an opiate and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique is based on an opium trip. I just wrote about this last month or maybe this is flashback. Hold on, I think flashbacks are an acid thing.

What is most interesting to me in this weekend’s concert is a flute concerto by Carl Nielsen. It is so interesting that I’m going to give it the elevated status of “esoteric pick of the week.”

To flautists this is not an esoteric piece. Nielsen’s Flute Concerto is one of the few flute concertos that exist after Mozart and get performed once in a great while. The other flute concertos are by composers with names such as Saverio Mercadante, Peter Benoit, and Carl Reinecke.

Reinecke is somewhat better known because of his association with the Brahms coalition in Leipzig but none of these composers are close to Nielsen’s level. The only other concert-quality flute concerto from the 20th Century, Nielsen’s is from 1926, is by Jacques Ibert. We all know Ibert, right?

All that to say that this concerto is well known to those who have affection for the flute. For the rest of us it might be the first time we’re hearing it live — or at all.

This is good programming by the symphony. Berlioz's music is popular enough to draw a good audience who will now be exposed to Nielsen's music and it gives the symphony a chance to show off its principal flute, Rose Lombardo, who will be the soloist.

Nielsen appears to have been something of a character when it comes to photos as a teen-ager. There are several shots of him "mugging" for the camera in a way that we don't associate with 19th-century photos. These photos capture Nielsen's personality in a way that we don't see with other "serious" composers.

The concerts are Friday and Saturday, February 26 and 27, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, February 28 at 2 p.m. The venue is Symphony Hall.

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