Denmark remained neutral throughout the international upheaval of the 1914–18 War; but its citizens have always been acutely sensitive to the activities of its large and powerful neighbour to the south. For Carl Nielsen there was an added dimension of philosophical crisis. It may be hard to believe now, but many European artists initially welcomed the prospect of war: here was a grand opportunity for ‘spiritual cleansing’, and a celebration of the traditional masculine virtues of courage, loyalty and devotion to one’s country. Before the hostilities Nielsen had been an enthusiastic nationalist. But as he began to realise the horrors men could inflict on each other for Kaiser – or King – and Country, his faith was rocked to the core. Nationalism, he wrote not long after the war, had been transformed into a ‘spiritual syphilis’, the justification for the expression of ‘senseless hate’. Nielsen’s faith in humanity may have suffered a setback, but rather than give in to despair he felt strongly driven to make some kind of affirmative statement: belief, if not in human beings (still less in nationhood), then perhaps in life itself. This is an important clue to the meaning of the title of the Fourth Symphony (1914–16). Nielsen added an explanatory note at the beginning of the score. ‘Under this title’, he tells us, ‘the composer has tried to indicate in one word what music alone is capable of expressing to the full: The elemental Will of Life. Music is life, and like it, inextinguishable’.