Nielsen: Aladdin Op. 34 / Rozhdestvensky, Ejsing, Päevatalu
NIELSEN Aladdin • Gennady Rozhdestvensky, cond; Mette Ejsing (alt); Guido Paevatalu (bar); Danish Natl SO & CCh • CHANDOS 10498 (79:34)
“It took some time for Nielsen to enter in the spirit of the oriental world in order to be able to compose original, suggestive music and not only imitations of folkloristic motifs,” writes Sussie Grevsen, in the liner notes to this release. There may be something in that to explain why the entirety of Aladdin —all 31 pieces, lasting a generous 79:34—is moderately underwhelming. Nielsen appears to have focused much of his efforts on providing musical backdrops; and while 13 of these cuts understandably have a low profile so as not to detract from text being recited in performance (omitted here), they don’t make for memorable listening. As much can be written, as well, of the Genie’s three separate minute-long utterances; a men’s chorus intoning a written text in unison on one note over a few spare, uninteresting chords adds little to the work. The incidental music is at its best, I think, in much of act III, which functions as exotically colored ballet music. Not coincidentally, it also furnished five out of the seven pieces included in the orchestral suite of excerpts Nielsen created. Elsewhere, however, the work usually fails to sustain interest on its own, and the sense of mystery and fantasy that underlies J. P. E. Hartmann’s score on the same subject is largely lacking.
That noted, if you do want all of Aladdin , this disc is the only way to currently acquire it. Rozhdestvensky and the Danish Natl SO recorded this back in 1993, and it’s been available ever since. There’s excellent pacing, and plenty of color when it’s required—though I still find Friedel/Aarhus SO (MSR Classics 1150; suite only) superior in creating organized chaos during the “Marketplace in Ispahan” sequence. Mette Ejsing is suave and affecting in her few selections, as is Guido Paevatalu, whom I liked so well in the eponymous role of Børresen’s The Royal Guest (dacapo 8.226020).
The new release is labeled “digitally remastered,” but I really can’t find any audio differences between this re-release and my original copy. The sound in any case is good, while Chandos provides full texts and translations. The price is lower, too, so this is the one to get, if you want it all.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Catalog Number: CHAN 10498 X
Composer: Carl Nielsen
Conductor: Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
Orchestra/Ensemble: Danish National Chorus, Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Performer: Guido Päevatalu, Mette Ejsing