Carl August Nielsen

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Nielsen, Carl August


Born June 9, 1865, in Nørre-Lyndelse, near Odense on the island of Fyn, Denmark; died Oct. 3, 1931, in Copenhagen. Danish composer, conductor, and musicologist.

From 1884 to 1886, Nielsen studied with N. Gade at the conservatory in Copenhagen, where he worked all his life. He conducted the orchestra of the Danish Royal Theater from 1908 to 1914, and that of the Musical Society from 1915 to 1927. In 1916 he began teaching at the conservatory, becoming its director in 1931.

Nielsen made his debut as a composer in 1888. His works were influenced by Scandinavian folk melodies. Nielsen’s music is distinguished for its powerful, austere quality and its unique harmonic language and developed polyphony.

Nielsen composed the operas Saul and David (1902) and Masquerade (1906; based on the work of the same name by L. Holberg), cantatas, six symphonies (including three program symphonies), overtures, rhapsodies, and concerţi for orchestra and solo instruments (including flute and clarinet). His compositions also include chamber music, religious works, songs in the folk style, and music for the theater. Nielsen’s works have influenced contemporary Danish music. Festivals of his music are held in Copenhagen.


Min fynske Barndom. Copenhagen, 1954.
Levende Musik. Copenhagen, 1957.


Simpson, R. W. Carl Nielsen, Symphonist: 1865–1931. London, 1952.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.