WORKS: Drot og Marsk
PERFORMER: Poul Elming, Bent Norup, Eva Johansson, Kurt Westi, Christian Christianssen, Aage Haugland; Danish National RSO & Chorus/Michael Schønwandt
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 91435 DDD
Although the Danish composer Peter Heise began work on his ‘tragic song drama’ Drot og Marsk (King and Marshal) in 1875, only a year before the first performance of Wagner’s Ring cycle, its musical preoccupations owe more to earlier Wagner and the operas of Weber, Meyerbeer and Verdi, which Heise encountered on his European travels.
The music is derivative, and the plot, from an episode in 13th-century Danish history about the murder of King Erik V, sometimes descends to risibility. Yet the often enchanting material and transparent orchestral colours emerge with freshness and, for the most part, an instinctive sense of theatrical pacing. Only occasionally do the music and action become stiff and routine. Schønwandt is a sympathetic and spirited conductor, allowing the work’s essential lyricism its proper due, and the fine Danish cast, a little rough and ready perhaps, shows a welcome sense of team spirit. This is not a ‘great’ opera but it deserves this enterprising first recording. Antony Bye