Symphony No. 3 (Nielsen)

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Nielsen's workroom on Vodroffsvej where he completed the Sinfonia Espansiva in 1911

The Danish composer Carl Nielsen wrote his Symphony No. 3 "Sinfonia Espansiva", Op. 27, FS 60, between 1910 and 1911. It typically lasts around 33 minutes.[1]

The symphony followed Nielsen's tenure as bandmaster at the Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen. Nielsen himself conducted the premiere of the work, along with the premiere of his Violin Concerto, on February 28, 1912 with Copenhagen's Royal Danish Orchestra.[2][3]

The character designation of the first movement (Allegro espansivo) serves as the symphony's subtitle, but it is not clear what Nielsen meant by 'espansiva'. Composer Robert Simpson wrote that it suggests the "outward growth of the mind's scope".[4]

Uniquely amongst Nielsen's symphonic output, it includes vocal parts: wordless vocal solos for soprano and baritone in the second movement.

Within two months of its premiere the symphony was in the repertoire of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, and by 1913 it had seen performances in Germany (Stuttgart), Sweden (Stockholm) and in Finland (Helsinki). It did not receive a public performance in the United Kingdom until 1962, under Bryan Fairfax.

Nielsen received 5,000 marks for publishing rights (C.F. Kahnt, Leipzig), a sum significantly higher than he usually received from his publishers. It was the first of Nielsen's symphonies to be commercially released on record, with Erik Tuxen conducting the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra.[1]


  1. Allegro espansivo
  2. Andante pastorale
  3. Allegretto un poco
  4. Finale: Allegro


  • Soprano solo, Mvt. II only (replaceable by 4th clarinet)
  • Bass solo, Mvt. II only (replaceable by 4th trombone)
  • Strings


  1. ^ a b Première recorded performance by Erik Tuxen (Decca Records 1946, re-released on Dutton Records.)
  2. ^ Steinberg, Michael. "Nielsen: Symphony No. 3". Program Notes. San Francisco Orchestra. Retrieved 2010-07-05. 
  3. ^ Meyer 1952, p. 198, Meyer 1979, p. 238.
  4. ^ Simpson 1952, p. 46, Simpson 1979, p. 57.



  • Simpson, Robert (1952). Carl Nielsen, Symphonist, 1865–1931. London: J. M. Dent. p. 236. ASIN B0000CIDKO. See pp. 45–65. First edition (reprinted by Hyperion Press ISBN 0-88355-715-0). 
    • Meyer, Torben (1952). "Biographical". Carl Nielsen, Symphonist, 1865–1931. pp. 183–211. Appendix I. Simpson 1952. Translated by Harald Knudsen. 
  • Simpson, Robert (1979). Carl Nielsen, Symphonist. London: Kahn & Averill. p. 260. ISBN 0-900707-46-1. See pp. 56–75. Second edition completely revised with additional chapter. 
    • Meyer, Torben (1979). "A Biographical Sketch". Carl Nielsen, Symphonist. pp. 225–250. Appendix I. Simpson 1979. Translated by Harald Knudsen.