Nielsen was in his mid-twenties when he began work on his First Symphony. His studies at the Copenhagen Conservatory complete, he took up posts in the second violins of, first, the Danish Theatre Orchestra and then, in 1889, the Royal Danish Orchestra. There he learned about symphonic music, and orchestration, ‘from the inside’. Not surprisingly one can hear influences of some of the music he played there in his First Symphony: Brahms, Dvorak and the Norwegian Johan Svendsen – who conducted the symphony’s premiere in 1894 (Nielsen standing up from his desk in the orchestra to acknowledge the applause at the end). But this is emphatically not an apprentice work. So many of Nielsen’s mature characteristics can be heard here: the lilting, sometime folk-inflected, but often delightfully unpredictable melodies, and the quick-witted, concise thinking that seems determined to keep listeners – and performers – on their toes. Such refreshing freedom from any kind of romantic excess is unusual for a composer of the late-Romantic era. One might conclude that this was a composer who had never heard Wagner, still less Mahler or Richard Strauss.