Celebrating 25 Years of Excellence

Piano Music by Carl Nielsen


Catalogue No: SOMMCD 0146-2
Release Date: 2015-03-01
Number of Discs: 2
EAN/UPC: 748871014626
Liner Notes

John McCabe, CBE, piano
(21st April 1939 – 13th February 2015)

SOMM celebrates the 150th Anniversary of Carl Nielsen, Denmark's greatest composer, with a special re-issue of his Piano Music  with  John McCabe


  • Festival Prelude
  • Piano Music for Young and Old Op. 53 Book 1 (The sharp keys)
  • Symphonic Suite Op. 8
  • Five Pieces Op. 3
  • Three Piano Pieces Op. 59
  • Piano Music for Young and Old Op. 53 Book II (The flat keys)


  • Humoresque Bagatelles op. 11
  • Suite Op. 45
  • Chaconne Op. 32
  • Dance of the Handmaidens No. 9
  • Theme with Variations Op. 40


It was during last January that Siva Oke of SOMM was approached by Robert Matthew-Walker and Monica McCabe, both friends of many years, and asked if she would consider issuing on CD, John McCabe’s recording of Nielsen’s Piano Music. John had originally made these LP recordings in 1975 and they appeared on Decca’s Ace of Diamonds. Siva was delighted to accept, having long held John’s artistry as a composer and pianist in the highest regard and  having also worked with him in recording  John Joubert’s Piano Sonatas for the latter’s 80th Birthday Tribute in 2007 (SOMMCD 060-2).

Siva Oke said:

I can truly say that I had never come across a pianist combining such reliable technique, ear for detail, charisma and humility. He always reacted with surprise and delight to hear himself being praised, as though he hardly deserved it let alone expected it! His death last February is a great loss to us all who had admired and loved him as a supremely talented musician, friend and human being.

The following is a small excerpt written and read by John’s wife, Monica McCabe in tribute to him during his funeral on 3rd March 2015:

From an early age John loved to explore little-known works, and champion composers he considered unjustly neglected — thus he came to record the entire piano sonatas of Haydn (which have been continually on sale since the 1970s), the solo piano repertoire of Nielsen, and the magnificent Ludus Tonalis of Hindemith, which he considered a masterwork, along with the Suite Op. 45 of Nielsen. His pianistic technique was first-rate, particularly in his 30s and 40s, and he was also a brilliant sight-reader. Never possessed of a massive sound, he could nevertheless make a note float across a smaller recital hall as if it had scarcely emanated from the instrument, but existed of itself. In all cases he tried to be totally faithful to the vision of the composers, rather than his own.

“As a composer he was modest and self-deprecating. Once satisfied with the work he had written he seldom listened to it again. He was more interested in the next piece. I’ve known him, at a meeting intended to promote his own music, to spend much of the time enthusing about the work of a fellow composer. While seldom teaching, he was deeply interested in furthering the careers of young composers and instrumentalists, and gave first-rate masterclasses, not insisting on his own viewpoint, but encouraging young musicians to pursue, or defend, theirs.”

John McCabe was appointed CBE for services to British music in 1985, and in 2006 the Incorporated Society of Musicians honoured him with their Distinguished Musician Award. In May 2014 he was the recipient of the British Academy of Songwriters and Authors IVOR Award, while the Iles Medal was awarded to him in September 2014 for services to the brass band movement.

The piano music of Carl Nielsen (1865-1931), the 150th anniversary of whose birth falls this year, has been overshadowed by his six symphonies, but his piano music has always had a special place in the appreciation of music lovers, ever since Nielsen’s music began to spread across the world in the years immediately following World War II.  These performances by John McCabe shed profound light on  Nielsen’s piano music. The recordings have been unavailable for many years. Now newly remastered by engineer Paul Arden-Taylor and with extensive accompanying notes by Robert Matthew-Walker,  they are given a new lease of life and we hope they will be widely welcomed by the many admirers of the music of Nielsen. They will also serve to remind us of John McCabe’s unique interpretations.

On This Recording

  1. 6 Humoresque-Bagatelles: 6 Humoresque-Bagatelles, Op. 11, FS 22
  2. Fest-praeludium (Festival Prelude): Fest-praeludium (Festival Prelude), FS 24, "Ved Aarhundredskiftet" (Turn of the Century)
  3. Klavermusik for Sma og Store (Piano Music for Young and Old): No. 1. Allegretto - No. 2. Andantino quasi allegretto - No. 3a. Allegro scherzoso - No. 3b. Grazi oso - No. 4. Andantino - No. 5. Allegro giocoso - No. 6. Poco lamentoso
  4. Suite: I. Allegretto un pochettino
  5. Klavermusik for Sma og Store (Piano Music for Young and Old): No. 7. Marziale - No. 8. Cantabile - No. 9. Allegretto civettuolo - No. 10. Lugubre - No. 11. Andantino poco tiepido - No. 12. Adagio dramatico
  6. Suite: II. Poco moderato
  7. Suite: III. Molto adagio e patetico
  8. Symphonic Suite: I. Intonation: Maestoso
  9. Suite: IV. Allegretto innocente
  10. Symphonic Suite: II. Quasi allegretto
  11. Suite: V. Allegretto vivo
  12. Symphonic Suite: III. Andante
  13. Suite: VI. Allegro non troppo ma vigoroso
  14. Symphonic Suite: IV. Finale: Allegro
  15. 5 Piano Pieces: No. 1. Folketone
  16. Chaconne: Chaconne, Op. 32, FS 79
  17. 5 Piano Pieces: No. 2. Humoreske
  18. Hagbarth og Signe: Dance of the Handmaidens: Hagbarth og Signe, FS 57: No. 5. Dance of the Handmaidens (version for piano)
  19. 5 Piano Pieces: No. 3. Arabeske
  20. Tema med variationer (Theme with Variations): Tema med variationer (Theme with Variations), Op. 40, FS 81
  21. 5 Piano Pieces: No. 4. Mignon
  22. 5 Piano Pieces: No. 5. Alfedans
  23. 3 Piano Pieces: No. 1. Impromptu
  24. 3 Piano Pieces: No. 2. Molto adagio
  25. 3 Piano Pieces: No. 3. Allegro non troppo
  26. Klavermusik for Sma og Store (Piano Music for Young and Old): No. 13. Andantino carino - No. 14. Capriccioso - No. 15. Adagio espressivo - No. 16. Alla contadino - No. 17. Largo con fantasia - No. 18. Preludio
  27. Klavermusik for Sma og Store (Piano Music for Young and Old): No. 19. Alla Bach - No. 20. Adagio - No. 21. Marcia di goffo - No. 22. Allegretto pastorale - No. 23. Etude. Allegro - No. 24. Molto adagio - Allegretto commodo