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Postcard from Copenhagen

Copenhagen is where all the cool kids head, and it was no different 150 years ago. The Danish capital was the hub for Nordic creatives in the days of Grieg (who lived there) and later Jean Sibelius and Carl Nielsen (the city's most famous musical son) and was even home to Sergei Rachmaninoff for a year in 1917.Read more…

Perhaps they were drawn by the promise of a good time. Copenhageners have always known how to party and a huge patch of the city centre is given over to the amusement park Tivoli Gardens, which also boasts its own symphony orchestra and international concert season. It was here that Hans Christian Lumbye wrote the gallops and polkas that are still enjoyed around the world (even by the Viennese).

These days, Copenhagen is known for its cutting edge architecture and design, in which classical music plays a central part. The city's main opera house and orchestral concert hall are barely a decade old (there are two more equally beautiful older ones) and a skyline dominated by fly-towers tells you the city means business when it comes to the performing arts. The Danish capital boasts more than its fair share of renowned contemporary composers and more people per capita listen to classical music radio here than anywhere else in the world.

Still, Copenhagen is steeped in tradition, as witness its musical crown jewel: the world's oldest orchestra, established in 1448. The Royal Danish Orchestra once counted Carl Nielsen among its members, and the composer is still a much celebrated figure in Denmark, his songs sung daily in many schools and libraries. Our playlist contains some of Nielsen's most bracing works as well as scores by his teacher Niels Gade and his nemesis Rued Langgaard. We chart some of the best living composers to have lived in the city as well as some from the generations after Nielsen you may not have heard of.

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