Carl Nielsen – European composer

Carl Nielsen (1865–1931) in a string quartet, playing the viola (Royal Danish Library)]
Carl Nielsen (1865–1931) in a string quartet, playing the viola (Royal Danish Library)

The aim of the project is to provide a substantial new monograph on Carl Nielsen, his music and his significance as musician, composer and cultural figure. The book will cover all aspects of his life and activities without presenting itself as a traditional chronologic biography. One feature is to access cultural environments through the concept of place; Odense, Sortelung, Copenhagen, Paris at certain times all provide such specific settings of music and culture. Another is to access his world through the variety of activities, he was involved in as a musician, composer, conductor, teacher, public figure and in leading functions at cultural institutions. In this way, the project will use the prominent figure of Nielsen as a way to experience the cultural life of his time.

The project runs for four years, 2018–2022, funded by The Carl Nielsen and Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen Foundation. The monograph is to be published in a Danish and an English edition.



The aim of the project is to provide a new monograph on Carl Nielsen, covering all aspects of his life and activities without presenting itself as a traditional chronologic biography. Methodologically, we see Nielsen as part of an integral north-European music culture that existed during his lifetime. This body of cultural experience and his involvement in solving tasks given to or chosen by him will provide a structure for a presentation of his activities at different times and in various contexts. In this way, the book will use Nielsen as an ocular through which music culture can be visible. Accordingly, it will be as much a book on Danish musical culture as it evolved during his lifetime.

Nielsen was of course a Danish composer, but he was not born the future Danish national composer; that position emerged during the decade around 1910. By positioning him in a broader, European context, a trend in international Nielsen scholarship during the latest 20 years, the monograph will counter the national perspective prominent in much Nielsen research. In that way the project will establish a platform from which is it possible to analyse and interpret how Nielsen’s status as a composer evolves and changes.









Call for papers: Nielsen – European Composer University of Copenhagen, 21-22 April 2022

On behalf of research group Carl Nielsen – European Composer, University of Copenhagen, we hereby invite all early career as well as established scholars to submit proposals for papers that relate to the topic of Carl Nielsen (1865–1931) and parallel figures, which can be perceived as early modern composers within the context of European music history. The idea of the conference is to discuss in which ways European composers born in the 1860s–70s are modern composers and how we may understand their modernity.

The Carl Nielsen Project has since 2018 worked towards a monograph on Nielsen as a European composer. The conference will feed back into this work.

Firstly, we invite submissions for paper proposals that highlight new perspectives on Nielsen’s work. This includes, but is not restricted to, music for theatrical plays, music for special occasions, classicism as a source of renewal, how to compose opera around 1900, and Nielsen’s international reputation.

Secondly, we invite scholars that work on parallel figures in European music history to contribute to the ongoing discussion on how we may understand the modernity of composers of Nielsen’s generation. They represent modern music after Wagner and Brahms. In later historiography, they were often perceived as national composers, thus ignoring their modernity, or had a hard time when more radical concepts of modernism were established in the early 20th century. In which ways do their contributions since the 1890s represent or perform new perceptions of modern life and modernity?

We are proud to announce Daniel M. Grimley and Julian Horton as key-note speakers.

The conference is organized by an organizing committee:

Professor Michael Fjeldsøe, University of Copenhagen (chair)
Professor Daniel M. Grimley, University of Oxford
Dr Christopher Tarrant, University of Newcastle
Dr Katarina Smitt Engberg, University of Copenhagen
Dr Bjarke Moe, University of Copenhagen

The language of the conference will be English. Papers should not exceed 20 minutes in duration. Submission of proposals for papers (including name, email, title, abstract (200 words) and A/V requirements) should to be sent to Michael Fjeldsøe on mail not later than 13 January 2022. Acceptance of proposal will be announced by the end of January.

The conference is supported by Carl Nielsen og Anne Marie Carl-Nielsens Legat.

Interpreting Nielsen


Carl Nielsen conference in Copenhagen, Thursday 16 April 2020.

University of Copenhagen, Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, room 16.4.11.

The conference will focus on interpretations of Nielsen’s music and the role of analysis and analytical approaches for different interpretations of Nielsen. The conference is the first part of a two-part conference, which continues at Newcastle University on 17-18 September 2020.

What kind of analysis answers what kind of questions? How are analytical approaches interacting with interpretation in wider contexts? The conference wants to discuss analysis as an approach to musical interpretation. Nielsen’s music is open to a wide range of interpretive strategies. He is a composer who works across genres, approaches different audiences and makes deliberate stylistic choices according to a given task. This gives an excellent possibility to test different approaches and their ability to provide convincing arguments and interpretations. The follow-up conference will open the question of interpreting Nielsen in a much wider range of topics.

The conference will work with a semi-open call for papers. As it is a one-day conference with invited key speakers there will be limited space for additional papers. However, all are invited to give in proposals for the Newcastle conference that follows.

Key note speaker:
Christopher Tarrent, Newcastle.

Please contact Michael Fjeldsøe.

1st Biennial Carl Nielsen Studies Conference

1st Biennial Carl Nielsen Studies Conference will be held at Newcastle University on the 17th and 18th of September 2021. The conference is organized by Newcastle University in cooperation with the Carl Nielsen Project at University of Copenhagen. See the conference website.







Name Title Phone E-mail
Michael Fjeldsøe Professor +4522144826 E-mail

Funded by

Logo The Carl Nielsen and Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen Foundation

The Carl Nielsen and Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen Foundation


Carl Nielsen 2015

CNW. Catalogue of Carl Nielsen's Works

The Carl Nielsen Edition


Michael Fjeldsøe
Professor of Musicology
Department of Arts and Cultural Studies
University of Copenhagen
Karen Blixens Vej 1
DK-2300 Copenhagen S
+45 22 14 48 26