NIELSEN: Maskarade (complete opera) – The Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Choir with vocal soloists/John Frandsen, Conductor – DaCapo

by | Jul 7, 2005 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

NIELSEN: Maskarade (complete opera) – The Danish National
Symphony Orchestra and Choir with vocal soloists/John Frandsen,
Conductor – DaCapo 6.220506-08 – 2 Multichannel Hybrid SACDs, 135 min.
****:

Maskarade, the de facto Danish national opera, almost disappeared into
oblivion; after a successful Danish premiere in 1906, all attempts at
getting the opera staged abroad failed and 24 years passed before the
work was presented outside Denmark. Thankfully, the opera was embraced
anew, and no fewer than 248 performances have since been given in
Denmark alone. Maskarade is almost unique in Nielsen’s canon of often
“difficult” compositions; a truly lyrical and melodic work, it stands
in stark contrast to his under-appreciated and frequently dark and
brooding symphonies.

The plot revolves around Leander and Leonora, two young persons who
meet fortuitously at a masquerade ball, swear their undying love for
each other and exchange rings. The following day, Leander tells a
servant of his newfound love. He soon becomes distraught when informed
by the servant that his parents have betrothed him in marriage to a
neighbor’s daughter. Things get complicated when Leonard, the neighbor
whose daughter is the other part of the previously unknown arrangement,
comes complaining to Leander’s father that his daughter is in love with
someone she met at the masquerade last night. In the third act, all is
resolved when the various parties slip off to the night’s masquerade,
where all is revealed to everyone’s mutual satisfaction.

This disc, a Grammy award nominee in 1979, has been lovingly remastered
in 5.1 surround sound. The rear channels mainly serve to heighten the
sense of envelopment by the listener – not too much else is going on
back there, as it should be. The sound is superb – I’d never have
guessed that the performances were more than twenty-five years old.
While undeniably more mainstream than so much of his output, the music
here is unquestionably pure Nielsen, with many bits and pieces
throughout that confirm his orchestral signature. The performances are
excellent and idiomatic – this edition is the recorded reference, and
will provide much enjoyment to all lovers of good opera. Very highly
recommended.

— Tom Gibbs

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