Nielsen: Aladdin Op. 34 (complete)

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COMPOSERS: Nielsen
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Aladdin Op. 34 (complete)
PERFORMER: Mette Ejsing (alto), Guido Paëvatalu (baritone); Danish National RSO & Chamber Choir/Gennady Rozhdestvensky
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9135 DDD
The Prologue to this 1919 Copenhagen Royal Theatre extravaganza could only be Nielsen – tender, introspective string writing with just a nod towards Grieg’s Anitra. Orientalisms soon appear on the scene, breaking out with unique barbarity in the Act III divertissement – proof that you didn’t have to imitate Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring to continue the Rimsky line after 1913 – though sensuousness is studiously avoided, above all in the pastoral love music. Chandos have used Danish links to come up with the full score for the first time on disc, a treasure-trove for anyone who knows the composer’s Fourth and Fifth Symphonies; for those who don’t, the very incidental action music (without the spoken dialogue it was devised to accompany) may be too much and the suite is worth seeking out instead, preferably in the vivid hands of Esa-Pekka Salonen on Sony.

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That, however, would be to miss Rozhdestvensky’s brazen delight in the dance: no one makes the procession of jewel-bearing slaves swagger more outrageously. The Danish National Radio Chamber Choir’s nasal antics enrich the celebrated collage of four stage bands (track 7) – Charles Ives in Isfahan – and the reflective, simple songs of the later acts provide a welcome respite to the more familiar savagery. It all adds up, and sounds handsome enough: salaam! David Nice