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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Gunner Møller PEDERSEN (b.1943)
Die Rättin - Rottesken
(1997)
opera based on the novel by Günter Grass
Helle Hinz (mezzo)
Ulrik Cold (bar)
Sankt Nikolai Kirkes Kammerkor/Jan Juhler
Ensemble Domino - Lolland/Peter Ettrup Larsen
rec Nakskov, March 2001
DANACORD DACOCD 591
[71.54]


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This is an eclectic score in the manner of a chamber opera and song cycle in fifteen tracks. The balance for this recording is close - comparable with a very immediate radio broadcast.

The musical fabric makes use of material that seems familiar - flitting between Mahler, Mozart, Brahms, Stravinsky and Weill (De elskende). Mozart, in 20th century weeds, is heard in Eventyrene which makes the frankest use of the first movement of Symphony No. 40.

The 'plot' is one of high fantasy. Grass points us towards the loss of all things in the apocalypse. Surreal moments include, in Goplernes sang, a huge choir of Baltic jellyfish singing a valedictory hymn to the lifeforce! For the great destruction (Ultemosch) earth-riven sound effects are used along with anguished screams. Only the rats are left to sing the Kyrie and the Dies Irae over gong strokes and the acid strident abrasion of the Mediaeval wind choir.

The strident cries and screams of the two voices at the start of Kvindere will inevitably remind listeners of the war-cries of Hector in Tippett's opera King Priam and of Oedipus Rex. The excoriating shriek is emphasised by cold Stravinskian wind instruments. By contrast the Ordbogen movement is sophisticatedly metro-bluesy - a fine conceit with the lovely voice-echoing at the end of track 10 utterly entrancing; hardly less so the storytelling oration of Goplerne's sang.

Ensemble Domino consists of single flute, clarinet, sax, oboe, trombone and harpsichord. While the Jeg drømte movement has the winds playing in felicitously low key harmony like a Mozartian cassation accompanying Ulrik Cold's folksy vocal line. Speaking of which this is also to be heard in De unge. Consciously or not it is rooted in the bloodline of Nielsen's folk romances and thence back to the folk inspirations of Schumann and Brahms. Cold also plays the bass drum and gong. Cold's voice is used intelligently - not in its first youth and closer to the other extreme of maturity he rarely miscalculates. In fact the voices are hardly ever asked to do anything to frighten the livestock. The choir in Goplenere's sang are called on to vocalise bell carillons in the most cushioned and dream-drifting of styles learnt from Holst's Neptune.

The ensemble is abstemiously fleshed out with electronic effects and percussion (tam-tam) in tribute to the best 1970s modernism.

The libretto is given but only in the original languages which are Danish and German. There are no translations. In general this production seems to have been made with an eye only to the German and Danish domestic markets.

This disc is, in addition, an enduring souvenir of a series of memorable festival performances at the Lys over Lolland Festival. These were held in a large barn on the Pederstrup estate. The world premiere there was attended by Günter Grass. There are photos from the productions.

The appeal of this production would have been widened had English translations of the libretto been provided.

Pedersen turns a cold, unflinching and cynical eye on cosmology and destiny.

Rob Barnett

 

www.danacord.dk


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