This Regis CD continues what we have now come
to recognise as a Nielsen tradition. This began with isolated
discs of the Ole Schmidt Nielsen symphony recordings. These are,
despite their analogue origins, very distinguished and highly
competitive even in the face of much more modern digital cycles
from Blomstedt (Decca rather than EMI Classics), Schønwandt
and Bostock. Then came Regis’s boxed set of all six symphonies.
Also licensed in part from the lamented Unicorn stable the present
disc should come as no spectacular surprise. It has even prompted
hopes that Regis will be liberating the operas Saul and David
and Maskarade to provide a stout assault on the Decca
and Chandos equivalents. The fact that Regis is a bargain basement
line makes its sovereign attractions even more compelling. Incidentally
this does not, on this occasion, mean that corners have been cut.
Full notes, in English only, are provided and the texts are in
the original Danish with English translation.
To the matter in hand. Vetö and the Odense
Orchestra turn in lively performances, extremely well recorded.
They do not sound refined or sophisticated and if they had the
music would not have been so persuasive. The sense of reed pipes
coarsely blown, of ocean breezes and dazzling choppy coastal waters
enlivens this music especially Fynsk Forår. Here
innocence and exhilaration are the keynotes. This is helped by
the use of child singers. The isle of Fyn was where Nielsen grew
up. Its pastoral and marine setting – similar to the Scottish
West Coast machair – are evoked in this series of vocal/orchestral
panels. This was always a good performance and nothing has changed
since it was first issued in the 1970s. The adult singers are
a shade too mature but nothing unduly damaging. Interestingly
the piece starts with the clearest echoes of the opening of Nielsen’s
Fifth Symphony. The Aladdin Suite extracts movements from
the complete music to a theatrical production of the play by Oehlenschläger.
You may well known these pieces from the BIS recording by Myung
Whun Chung (a doughty Nielsen conductor as we know from his partial
symphonic cycle from BIS) or from the old Music For Pleasure LP
which had as the main item Nielsen’s Violin Concerto played by
Menuhin. On that LP Svend Felumb was the conductor. The performances
are lively and full of oriental colour. This is not as sultry
as Delius’s for Flecker’s Hassan but certainly warmer than
we may be accustomed to from Nielsen unless we know his overture
Helios. If you would like to have the complete Aladdin
music there is a Chandos CD where the Royal Stockholm Orchestra
is conducted by Gennadi Rozhdestvensky. As a matter of interest
Vetö and the Odense orchestra have also recorded a separate
disc of Nielsen’s other incidental music on the Kontrapunkt label.
Rounding out this disc there are three rather sober motets and
directed by the veteran Nielsen pupil Mogens Wøldike. Wøldike
is also the conductor of the choral work Søvnen
and Hymnus Amoris on an EMI classics Double Forte that
also includes Blomstedt’s 1974/5 EMI/DRSO recordings of Symphonies
5 and 6. The motets here are sung with fervour but these are not
works to approach in the expectation of passionate engagement.
The vocal impress is from Palestrina rather than Tallis.