Carl Nielsen (1865-1931)
Fantasistykker, (Fantasy Pieces), op. 2
Originally for oboe and piano
Arranged for viola and piano by Daniel Powers
duration: approx. 6 minutes
Score and part: $25.00
Order through JW Pepper
By the beginning of the twentieth century, Carl Nielsen would be firmly established as Denmark’s most significant composer, but in the late 1880’s he was just another young musician fresh from the Conservatory attempting to make a name for himself.
Nielsen attended the Royal Danish Conservatory from 1884 to 1886, where his principal field of study was the violin. Even though he took composition lessons from Niels Gade, he seems to have only gradually come around to the idea that composition would be his principal occupation. After graduating, he supported himself like most young violinists, giving private lessons and taking any performing opportunities that came his way. Several of his early pieces were performed during these years and were generally well received. His official opus 1, a Suite for Strings, suffered the indignity of having its scheduled premiere bumped by a visiting English composer who finagled the substitution of his own work for the unknown Dane’s. The Suite was premiered in September 1888, a week later than scheduled, and was so well received that one movement, a Waltz, had to be repeated. Nielsen’s career had begun.
Things continued to look up in 1889, when he auditioned for and received a chair in the second violin section of the prestigious Royal Danish Orchestra, where he remained for the next sixteen years. The two Fantasy Pieces for oboe and piano, published in 1890 as Nielsen’s opus 2, owe their existence to the composer’s friendship with two of the orchestra’s oboists, Peter Brøndum and Olivo Krause. Originally designated Andante and Intermezzo, the two pieces were completed in March 1890. They were first performed in September, at a private gathering in Dresden at which Nielsen performed the oboe part on the violin, accompanied by the pianist Victor Bendix. The official premiere, by Krause and Bendix, was to have taken place the following December, but Krause fell ill and could not perform, so the performance was delayed until March 1891, some weeks after the pieces had already been published.
Some twenty years later, Nielsen recalled: “The two oboe pieces are a very early opus. The first – slow –piece gives the oboe the opportunity to sing out its notes quite as beautifully as this instrument can. The second is more humorous, roguish, with an undertone of Nordic nature and forest rustlings in the moonlight.”
The Romance was transcribed for violin by Hans Sitt later that same year, and became popular among violinists even before the oboe version received a second performance. (Nielsen himself performed the Sitt transcription on at least one occasion.)
My transcription for viola includes both pieces. It was possible to follow Nielsen’s original very closely; for the most part, the only changes necessary were to transpose the oboe part down an octave, and to make appropriate modifications to the phrasing and articulation.