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Breakthrough and Collapse in Carl Nielsen’s Sinfonia Semplice

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Christopher Tarrant


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The tension between Carl Nielsen’s status as a modernist and his engagement with sym- phonic form has been a point of sustained scholarly interest in recent years. His Sinfo- nia semplice (1925) has posed some of the most searching questions for musicologists, formal as well as hermeneutic. Although the work’s title alludes to its straightforwardly conventional layout in four movements and its sometimes childlike thematic materials, the events that occur in the course of the symphony, formal, tonal, and narrative, are far from simple. This article offers a reading of the Sinfonia semplice which draws on Adorno’s categories of ‘breakthrough’ and ‘collapse’, Sonata Theory, and Northrop Frye’s theory of narrative. The denial of straightforwardly heroic or tragic narrative trajectories, I argue, offers further insight into the contribution to interwar modernism that can be found in late Nielsen.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Tarrant C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Danish Yearbook of Musicology

Year: 2017

Volume: 41

Pages: 32–49

Online publication date: 01/07/2017

Acceptance date: 01/05/2017

ISSN (print): 1604-9896

ISSN (electronic): 2245-4969

Publisher: Dansk Selskab for Musikforskning, Danish Musicological Society


Notes: Volume ISBN 9788788328325


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