Table of contents

Source materials

The Royal Library in Copenhagen holds the majority of the surviving sources to Nielsen’s music, presumably amounting to more than ninety-five percent of all the material. The remaining five percent are found in other Danish and foreign libraries among which Musikbiblioteket (Stockholm) and Leipzig Stadtarchiv should be mentioned. Apparently only very few manuscripts are still privately owned.

Rough drafts as well as ink fair copies to most of Nielsen's larger musical works have survived. In some instances, the ink fair copy has entirely or partly been produced by a foreign hand (Knud Jeppesen, Nancy Dalberg, Emil Telmányi or others), authorized by the composer. Also foreign corrections carried out in the manuscripts are in most cases sanctioned and approved by Nielsen.

Already in 1935, that is four years after the composer's death and on occasion of his seventieth anniversary, a number of prominent individuals led by the composer, musicologist and pupil of Nielsen's, Knud Jeppesen, started gathering Nielsen's surviving manuscripts. In a call for material sent to Nielsen's acquaintances and pupils, they asked for information on manuscripts or other sources which the respondents might have in their possession and encouraged them to hand over the material to the newly established Carl Nielsen Archive in The Royal Library (the enquiry and the replies are kept in The Royal Library, Håndskriftafdelingen, Journalsager nr. 4802).

The appeal made it possible for the library to establish the Carl Nielsen archives, in the first instance with donations from Hakon Andersen, Harald Balslev, Emilius Bangert, Anders Brems, Knud Jeppesen, Alfred Nielsen, Aage Oxenvad, Margrethe Rosenberg and Margrethe Schnor. However, in 1935, the majority of Nielsen's manuscripts were still in the family's possession, in particular his widow, Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen. After her death in 1945, Nielsen’s oldest daughter, Irmelin Eggert Møller, inherited the collection. Other manuscripts were in the hands of Nielsen’s son-in-law, the violinist Emil Telmányi who was married to Nielsen's second daughter Anne Marie.

Substantial parts of the collection, which since then has become the basis of the Carl Nielsen archives, were handed over to the library in 1958 by Irmelin Eggert Møller. Later a series of individual donations were presented by Nielsen’s acquaintances and associates of which the last large donation was received in 1991. It is most likely that only very few autograph manuscripts remain unknown.

The Royal Library has organized the material in two distinct collections: Carl Nielsen Arkivet (the Carl Nielsen Archive, CNA) containing letters and other textual sources, and Carl Nielsens Samling (Carl Nielsen’s Collection, CNS) containing musical sources, both manuscripts and prints.

Methodology and work concept

Definition of 'Work'

The disposition of a catalogue of works presents a series of fundamental problems related to the work concept. The catalogue must inevitably operate with an either–or: a composition may be seen as either an independent work – hence assigned a CNW number – or may fall outside the chosen delimitation and therefore does not appear with its own unique number.

In essence the CNW main catalogue includes compositions which are complete in structure though not necessarily so in detail. Works now regarded as lost are included if their former existence seems to be evident. Fragments of compositions, which as far as is known were never finished, are listed in the appendix instead.

The appendix also lists Nielsen's arrangements of other composers' works, doubtful and spurious compositions, and finally arrangements of Nielsen's works by others.

Works and excerpts

Those instances, where excerpts of works – either in original form or as arrangements – have had a separate and significant reception history independent of their original context, are more difficult to solve. This applies to a number of songs which originally were composed in relation to stage music but were disseminated and became known as independent works. In addition, CNW distinguishes between instrumental and vocal music: instrumental excerpts of larger works are basically not interpreted as independent works. Thus the 'Aladdin' Suite, for instance, is placed under the music for the play, Musik til Adam Oehlenschlägers skuespil "Aladdin eller Den forunderlige Lampe" CNW 17. Similarly, Taagen letter (The Fog is Lifting) is only to be found in relation to Musik til Helge Rodes skuespil "Moderen" CNW 18, in spite of the fact that Taagen letter, in various arrangements, is far better known as an independent piece than the stage music for the play as a whole.

Nielsen's orchestral piece, Saga-Drøm CNW 35, is on the other hand listed as a separate work, even though it was also used as part of the music for the play, Moderen. This is due to the fact that Nielsen conceived Saga-Drøm as a work of its own several years before he decided to include it in Moderen.

This general approach was chosen because it is difficult to draw a clear line between works and versions otherwise: excerpts and arrangements constitute a continuum ranging from re-instrumentations of the work or the grouping of selected movements (e.g. the 'Aladdin' Suite), over single movements which sometimes are performed independently (e.g. Hanedansen from Maskarade CNW 2) and to actual arrangements of such individual movements (e.g. Taagen letter).

Songs originating from plays

Regarding songs that have their origin in larger contexts, another approach has been chosen. Such songs are also listed in the catalogue as individual works – that is, if they were also published outside their original context, either separately or as part of a collection of songs. One good example worth mentioning is Sangen til Danmark CNW 237 that was originally composed for the play, Moderen CNW 18, but which furthermore was published as part of an excerpt of the play in piano score and as a four-part arrangement for mixed choir. These songs have been assigned with their own CNW number, though they also appear as part of another work.

Song collections

The same applies to those songs which were published in collections, regardless of whether they were publications including songs by various composers or collections only including songs by Nielsen, and regardless of whether the songs were also published separately. These collections make up a continuum ranging from existing individual songs, chosen for publication in a broader context (e.g. Folkehøjskolens Melodibog), to collections that were composed during a coherent period of time and of a more cyclic nature, such as Seks sange til tekster af Ludvig Holstein, Op. 10. The songs have been listed as individual works (including, of course, the information on the collection/s of which it was part) because 1) it is difficult to draw a clear line between grouped, separate songs and actual cycles of songs; and 2) the songs are sometimes also found in other contexts. These work criteria imply that a song such as Jeronimus' song ('Fordum var her Fred paa Gaden') from Maskarade CNW 2, is not listed in CNW as an individual work since it, in spite of its popularity in Nielsen's lifetime, was never published by itself. In other words, it is the source situation that determines the evaluation of a song's status as a work rather than its reception history.

Though the song collections have not been assigned one unique CNW number, they are described individually. The description of a song collection is contained in one record which also includes a listing of the collection's contents (i.e., those songs which the collection contains) as well as the sources related to that particular collection. The collection is located by clicking on its title appearing under the 'Contained in:' heading. The description of a single song of a collection, however, is found by proceeding to the song's title in the index of the collection (under the heading 'Includes:').

Arrangements and re-instrumentations

Different arrangements of the same composition are not defined as independent works but are included under the same CNW number, also when it comes to songs. This overall understanding of 'work' implies therefore that there is not a one-to-one agreement between a work in CNW and an edition in The Carl Nielsen Edition (CNU) in all instances; CNU may have several editions under the same CNW number. This applies to Hjemvee CNW 205, for instance (better known with the first line 'Underlige Aftenlufte'), which is published in CNU in four distinct arrangements of the same melody, all listed under the same entry in CNW. Nielsen's original and lesser known melody to the same text has, on the other hand, its own entry (CNW 296).

Also songs employing the same melody but with a different text are regarded as distinct compositions: for instance Julesang (1923) CNW 313, which Nielsen re-used with another text in 1924 ('Danevang med grønne bred') CNW 318.

Order of numbering

Often Nielsen's works cannot be dated precisely. They were composed over longer periods, and at a later date they were sometimes revised to such an extent that it hardly makes sense to assign them to one particular time in Nielsen's production. The CNW numbers are therefore arranged according to genre.

As to the songs, CNW retains the overall arrangement of the Nielsen Edition. The songs are organized as follows according to the songs' original scoring and context:

Songs with piano Songs published in collections
Separate songs
Recitation and piano  
Choir and piano  
Voice and instrumental ensemble  
A cappella choir  
Mixed choir Songs published in collections
Separate songs
Male choir  
Equal voices Songs published in collections
Separate songs
Unison songs Songs published in collections
Separate songs

Within each of these categories the chronological order roughly follows the date of completion of the first version of the song.

Exceptions to the sequence of numbers are a few songs and instrumental pieces added to the catalogue at a late stage when most numbers had already been assigned and published. These late-coming pieces are listed at the end of the main sections they belong to (instrumental works and vocal music, respectively).

How to use the catalogue

The catalogue's primary entry to the records is the list of work titles. In a column to the left of the titles, it is possible to modify and limit the search results, while at the top of the list there are different settings as to how the results may be displayed.

Filtering and searching

On the menu at the left side of the display, the following possibilities to change or limit the search are listed:

All search limitations function additively, that is, a simultaneous use of several search parameters confines the result further (logically 'AND'). Each delimiting parameter (filter) is shown at the top of the list of search results when the search has been completed. Each filter may be removed one at a time by clicking on the delete symbol 'delete' symbol at the filter in question, thus expanding the search again. Filters may be removed all at once by clicking on the red 'Reset all' button in the list of filters.

Display and sorting of search results

The search result is displayed as a list of work titles. By default, only twenty search results are shown at a time. They reader may navigate through the result pages using the numbered navigation buttons above the result list. The number of results per page can be changed by selecting a different number in the select box above the navigation buttons.

The sort order of the results can be changed with the other select box next to the works-per-page selector. Possible sort orders are CNW number (default), alphabetically by title, and chronologically by year of composition. The chronological sorting, however, is only a rough approximation. It takes into account only the year in which the composition was completed. Undated works are listed first. Clicking on a work's title opens the detailed view.

The structure and contents of each record

A certain amount of information is displayed directly on each record. For the sake of clarity, other data may be hidden under the tabs with a plus sign plus sign, that is 'Music', 'Performances', 'Sources', 'Primary texts' and 'Bibliography'. By clicking on the sign the hidden information will unfold and may be closed again.

Work titles

Precise titles are kept thus reproducing Nielsen's original orthography. They reveal changes in Nielsen's spelling and punctuation habits throughout his life and are apparent in titles such as Har Haand du lagt paa Herrens Plov CNW 173 and Jeg gik i marken og vogtede får CNW 327. From an orthographical point of view, the titles in general expose a heterogeneous and a seemingly inconsistent practice which, however, has been retained rather than modernized, partly because modernized spelling would be just as dated (though to a later time) and partly because modernization is also a question of degree which in the extreme would not only include spelling and punctuation but also the choice of words. Furthermore, the variations in Nielsen’s orthography not simply reflect general changes of his time but also a conscious choice of orthography according to context. It may be noted, for instance, that Der sad en fisker så tankefuld was actually composed several years before Tyst som Aa i Engen rinder.

Several of Nielsen's songs were published in various contexts with distinct orthographies: Melodier til Sangbogen Danmark (1924), for example, employs the older orthography while Folkehøjskolens Melodibog (1922) uses the modern. As a rule, CNW reproduces the orthography of the earliest published title. In the description of the contents of the song collections the titles are rendered as in the collection concerned.

Titles that are similar to genre designations have – as have instrument designations – been standardized and modernized such as Kvartet for to violiner, bratsch og cello (Quartet for Two Violins, Viola and Cello) CNW 49. Incidental music has been given titles such as Musik til Ludvig Holsteins skuespil "Tove" (Music for Ludvig Holstein's Play 'Tove') CNW 10, because the title Tove would refer to the play as a whole.

Many of the songs were never provided with an actual title by Nielsen; in these cases the first line of the text has been added as title. In the remaining instances the text incipit is given as the alternative title, also when the song is better known by its first line (e.g. Hjemvee CNW 205, better known as 'Underlige Aftenlufte').


In addition to the actual CNW number, the catalogue provides each work's number in an array of other contexts including Nielsen's own opus numbers, FS (Fog/Schousboe)Dan Fog and Torben Schousboe: Carl Nielsen. Kompositioner. En Bibliografi. Copenhagen 1965 numbers and the work's manuscript shelf-mark in the Carl Nielsen Collection (CNS) in The Royal Library.

Furthermore, each record lists the work's number in the Nielsen Edition (CNU). The numbers signify series and volume. The song numbers are preceded by a comma. If several versions occur in the same CNU volume these are separated by yet a comma; versions in other volumes are divided by a semicolon. Thus 'CNU III/5, 146, 229; III/6, 324' refers to numbers 146, 229, and 324 in the Nielsen Edition of which the two first-mentioned are in Series III (songs) volume 5, whereas the latter is in Series III volume 6.

Then follows the name of a possible text author.

Each song record includes a link titled 'Carl Nielsen Edition (Editorial Texts)' referring to a PDF file of the text volume to all the songs. Since the information regarding each song (history, English translation of the lyrics, source descriptions and list of revisions) is found in various sections of the volume, the link does not refer to a particular page. Information on each song is located by referring to the index at the end of the volume.

If the work is related to other works or song collections this has been indicated by clickable titles linking to information placed under their CNW numbers.

The work's history

The information on the work's history includes a brief summary of its genesis, dating, the first known performance and sometimes also a few other performances. Besides the date of the performance, also place, participants and in some cases information regarding reviews are included.

Instrumentation and movements

If there are different instrumentations of the same work, this will normally be indicated under each version. For an unambiguous identification, CNW provides incipits including the first bars of the composition's main parts (movements, scenes or similar). Works of a more extensive instrumentation are provided with incipits in short score. By clicking on an incipit, a larger image appears in a separate window. Incipits are based on the Carl Nielsen Edition and therefore do not necessarily reproduce the exact reading of one particular source.

In records of works of a more complex structure, such as operas divided into acts, scenes and sections of scenes, the information constitutes a hierarchy of each individual element that may be folded out by clicking on the 'Sections' heading.

A link marked 'Carl Nielsen Edition' leads to a PDF file of that volume (or volumes) of the Nielsen Edition containing the composition. Some works, which were originally published in a composite volume, were also published as soft-bound off-prints, for example the flute and clarinet concertos. In these instances, the link refers to the off-prints.


The overview of sources for each work includes only those from Nielsen's lifetime, and directly related to Nielsen; it also includes sources representing his own versions of the works. Other composers' arrangements of Nielsen's works are thus not included included in the main catalogue; please refer to the appendix for a list of arrangements by Nielsen’s contemporaries.

The source descriptions are minimal, providing only the most basic information for identification. More detailed descriptions are available in the volumes of The Carl Nielsen Edition (CNU). To facilitate the consultation, CNW lists CNU's source designation (e.g. 'CNU Source A'). The appropriate CNU volumes are available via the mentioned link.

The sources are given a descriptive title indicating the type of source such as 'Score, autograph, fair copy'. 'Autograph' with no further qualification designates that the source's main hand is Nielsen's. In some cases a name is added after 'autograph' – for instance, 'autograph (Henrik Knudsen)' – indicating that the manuscript is not by Nielsen; nor that it is merely a copy or transcript of Nielsen's manuscript: the difference between sources listed as a copy and as an autograph (with a name added) is that the latter intentionally adds original content to the work.

A systematic classification of the source is given after the title. The classification indicates the content type of the source (musical or textual), type of production (manuscript or print), authority (autograph or copy), position in the compositional process (sketch, draft, fair copy etc.), type of scoring (such as score, short score or parts) and completeness (complete, incomplete, excerpt, fragment). 'Incomplete' is used in cases where the source represents the entire composition but some material is missing (for instance, a set of parts with one or more parts missing); 'excerpt' describes a source intentionally omitting sections of the overall composition, while 'fragment' is used when the source is left unfinished or portions of it have been lost (for instance, a sketch of the first bars only, or a copy of the score with one or more pages missing).


The 'Documents' section lists contemporary manuscript documents such as letters to and from Nielsen as well as Nielsen's diaries. The information is based on the Carl Nielsen Brevudgaven John Fellow (ed.): Carl Nielsen Brevudgaven. Multivers, Copenhagen 2005-. (Carl Nielsen Letters).

References do not yet include letters from Nielsen's latest years but they will be added as soon as possible when the complete edition is available.

In so far as it has been possible, references to letters dealing with actual songs have been listed under the specific song rather than the collection or those collections in which the song appeared. Letters mentioning a song collection or unspecified songs from a collection are, however, listed under the collection.


The bibliography lists contemporary as well as posthumous literature dealing with the work in question. More references are currently being added, based on compilations such as Mina F. Miller, Carl Nielsen. A guide to research (New York 1987), the current bibliography on Nielsen literature published in the journal Carl Nielsen Studies , and RILM .

The editors