Carl August Nielsen was a Danish composer who wrote much during the early part of the twentieth century. Though he was the most important Danish Composer of his generation, and perhaps all time, most his music is still not widely known outside of Denmark. His six symphonies are the works that have given him his international reputation, but he also wrote a great deal of piano, organ, chamber, stage, and choral music, including two operas.
His music had both a neo-classical and modern sound to it at the same time. It was also very individual in its use of progressive tonailty. Though many composers stretched tonality around that time, Nielsen used modulation in his own way to provide an impetus to a large scale piece of music. In contrast to traditional home-key concepts, the final key of a Nielsen piece was often arrived at by way of a great struggle, which in the end revealed its own logic. This is especially evident in all six of his symphonies.
Nielsen had a unique melodic voice that had some of its basis in Scandinavian folk music. Often in his music, the major and minor thirds are used interchangibly, as are the major and minor sevenths. His blending of styles forshadowed pan-stylistic and totalist composers of the late 20th century such as Alfred Schnittke. Nielsen used elements of music from many eras that came before him, blended equally at times with modern stylings. He was also one of the century's great masters of counterpoint.Â He had a great appreciation and understanding of the music of Bach and Palestrina. It seems like a cannon or fugue can emerge at almost any moment in his music.