Carl Nielsen - Symphony No. 5

First First Movement Solo video
Second First Movement Solo video
First Movement Cadenza video

Nielsen's 5th symphony contains material that might be familiar to clarinetists, because of the similarities between it and the clarinet concerto of six years later, principally the conflict between metaphoric light and darkness, and the prominence of the clarinet and snare drum.

The first of three big solos in the first movement begins after number 12. In an audition, play the marked dynamics, but in the orchestra, sneak in, blending with the second clarinet, and play a rapid crescendo. The emotion of this solo is one of relentlessness, and contains fragments of the "evil theme," which can be seen in the clarinet part 3 measures before 6. Keep ff throughout, but still give it shape, for example crescendo-ing out of the end of 3 after 12 into the change of figure in the fourth bar, or adding another crescendo on the septuplets a bar later. Ideally, you should not breathe until the rest. Breathe again after the dotted-quarter note two measures before 13, and again after the second beat of the third bar after 13. If you need an additional breath, you can sneak it in two notes before the long trill. Make sure you come down to f where marked, but keep the intensity. You are now in duet with the flute, and only at the end of the trill to you take over in prominence again. Even though you should keep a relentless ff, save some for the final sfz.

The second solo is after 21. Take a huge breath and begin mf as marked, then play a little rubato by starting the Ds a little slow and accelerating. In an audition, I would keep stricter time. Again, maintain a relentless ff, but with some musical shape. Be especially careful of intonation and control of tone during these large ff skips. The off-beat triplets should be in perfect time. Bring out the groupings of four triplets two bars before 22. At the end of that bar, there is a missing tie in the part across the barline. Make this D quite loud and long, and don't get softer on your descent to the G-sharp. It is very difficult to play the following dynamics without changing the intonation. Do your best and play the entrance in the third bar of 22 louder if you need to in order not to go sharp. This is much easier in the orchestra than in an audition. Save your cresc. after 22 for at least where marked, maybe a little later, and make it big, but not so big that you don't have more volume left for the ffz. Fade a little on the last note at an audition, and completely in the orchestra. Other instruments continue to hold the note when you're resting and at the end.

The cadenza at the end of the movement is the culmination of the battle. The calm G-major chord is expounded upon by the clarinet, with consonance and with a very dissonant concert A-flat, as well as the fading snare drum. Sneak in and take your time. Play lontano. Play the hairpins where marked. Add one going up to the dissonant B-flat, and dim. there. On the final bar of the first phrase, Nielsen writes seven measures of snare drum with the quarter-note rest coming at the end of the fifth iteration. Hear the snare in your head, or in reality, and time your dim. accordingly. This will mean a very long final note - be ready. Breathing in the second, longer phrase is problematic. It can be done in one breath, but you'll need to play a little faster and linger less long on the fermatas. If you want to take more time, and I do, breathe after the final B-flat. This is better than after the D-flat because you should cresc. to the dissonance on the B-flat without breaking up the line. Sneak again on the first note, playing hairpins where marked. When back on the E, dim. a little and surprise everyone by changing directions at the last minute with a cresc. beginning on the F-sharp to the B-flat, and then continuing up to the D-flat, and then continuing back to the B-flat. This kind of surprise and relentlessness helps to culminate the themes of the movement emotionally. After diminuendo-ing on the B-flat for as long as you need, take a breath, and play the end with some freedom. The rhythms represented here are for a written-out rit. The relationships need not be exact. Play the last note very long, and fade out as only a clarinet can.