“Carl Nielsen’s incidental music for The Mother was written for a gala celebrating the reunification, in 1920, of Southern Jutland with Denmark – one of the most important events in Denmark in the 20th century. The Royal Theatre commissioned the distinguished poet Helge Rode (1870-1937) to write the text for the play, and Carl Nielsen, who had established himself as Denmark’s leading composer, was to write the music.” [Extracted from the press release]

We start in grand ceremonial style, percussion marking time, horns whooping, the first of twenty-six numbers, continuing with ‘Saga-drøm’ (not the only time that Nielsen used this title), nearly all of which leave in no doubt that he is the composer, then on the cusp of his Fifth Symphony.

Recorded complete for the first time, and in theatre order, Nielsen’s score for The Mother bewitches and exhilarates, supplemented by his characteristic expressions, harmonies and orchestral touches. Of course he had to adapt to the needs of the play – there are attractive vocal segments, and sometimes instruments are singled to flute, harp, string quartet, and piano, the latter given the charming ‘Gramophone Waltz’ (which fades/is faded to nothing).

There is some speech – Dacapo’s generally helpful annotation includes the spoken and sung Danish texts but no translations – but really its music all the way, with lovely lyrical singing, and if, by necessity, some pieces are no longer than they had to be, there is always the sonorous and searching Prelude to Scene Four to fall back on, or the tongue-in-cheek ‘Fragments of the National Anthems of the Belligerents’, and not forgetting a pair of Minuets, in fact the same one used twice (numbers fifteen & eighteen).

Seventy minutes later, closing with the choral, hymn-like ‘There’s a Fleet of Floating Islands’, even though this score may not be vintage Nielsen – more Springtime on Funen than Inextinguishable – I suggest that his many fans needn’t hesitate. Vivid sound on Dacapo 6.220648 [SACD].