Louis Glass and Carl Nielsen: Opposites in Danish Musical Life


  • Claus Røllum-Larsen
  • Marie-Louise Zervides
  • David Fanning




Carl Nielsen and Louis Glass were close contemporaries, and their musical careers began in parallel. But their points of departure were different. Whereas Nielsen took off from Beethoven, Brahms, Dvorˇák and Svendsen, Glass was particularly inspired by César Franck and Bruckner. Around the time of World War One, the differences became pronounced. Nielsen gained great popularity with his folk-like songs, whilst Glass submersed himself in theosophy. Symbolic of the differences are Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony, The Inextinguishable, and Glass’s Fifth, Sinfonia Svastica, each of which foregrounds the concept of ‘Life’, but from a different point of view. Glass clearly perceived that he had become cast in Nielsen’s shadow, and in a short correspondence with him in 1923 he tried to plead his case that they were both working in the same direction but from different points of departure. He felt that they were complementary. Nielsen’s side of the correspondence has not survived, and we therefore do not know his attitude.

Author Biographies

Claus Røllum-Larsen

Claus Røllum-Larsen, MA and PhD from Copenhagen University, has been employed at The Royal Library since 1995, first as an editor for the Carl Nielsen Edition, then from 1997 as senior researcher in the Music Collection. His special area is Danish music from 1860-1940, and in this connection he has taken initiatives in Copenhagen’s concert life on behalf of repertoire from 1900-1935. He has published books papers about international instrumental repertoire (Impulser i Københavns koncertrepertoire 1900-1935, 2 vols., Museum Tusculanum, 2002) and Knudåge Riisager as composer and writer (Knudåge Riisager: komponist og skribent, 2 vols., Museum Tusculanum, 2015). He edited Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony, The Inextinguishable, for the Carl Nielsen Edition and is currently working on a monograph about Louis Glass.

Marie-Louise Zervides

Marie-Louise Zervides is a freelance writer, lecturer and dramaturge working in opera and classical music. Her research focuses on nineteenth- and twentieth-century opera with an interdisciplinary approach encompassing fields such as literary theory, cultural and identity politics, and performance studies. She holds an MA in Modern Culture and a BA in Musicology from the University of Copen-hagen.

David Fanning

David Fanning is Professor of Music at the University of Manchester and author and editor of books, articles and critical editions on Nielsen, Shostakovich, Weinberg, and the 20th-century symphonic tradition. He is co-author with Michelle Assay of a much-expanded version of his 2010 Weinberg biography (Toccata Press, forthcoming), and co-editor with Erik Levi of the Routledge Companion to Music under German Occupation (Routledge 2019). As a pianist he partnered the Lindsay String Quartet for 25 years, a role he has continued with its successor as ensemble-in-residence at the University of Manchester, the Quatuor Danel. For many years he has been a critic for Gramophone and The Daily Telegraph.




How to Cite

Røllum-Larsen, C., Zervides, M.-L., & Fanning, D. (2020). Louis Glass and Carl Nielsen: Opposites in Danish Musical Life. Carl Nielsen Studies, 6. https://doi.org/10.7146/cns.v6i0.122256