Svend Nielsen
9+ instr
B4, 74 pages

Nightfall for chamber orchestra (1989) seems to interpret its title ambiguously with elements of ‘darkening’, ‘dream’ and ‘fall’. While the music is poetically conceived, the work is a good example of the way dramatic expression has become a clear presence in Svend Nielsen’s music. (With its ‘dark’ culmination the work stands in the composer’s own consciousness as a contrast to the subsequent ‘light’ orchestral work Aubade).

Nightfall can be heard as a journey from the violent, the thronging, to the lyrical and dreaming, and back again. The turbulence of the beginning leads over a subsiding pulse to the middle section’s contrasting dreaming and floating moods, then as the pulse rises again, is condensed in a dark, urgent orchestral texture which implodes – as if sucked into a black hole – so only the high flute-like tone of the first violin is left in the end. There is a symphonic feel to the dense texture of the outer parts of the work. The middle sections, on the other hand, are light and transparent. Farthest in, at the heart of the music, it reaches acoustic absolute zero, where only the conductor keeps the pulse going and thus the music alive.


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