Carl Nielsen composed extensive incidental music for a 1919 Copenhagen production of a play, Aladdin, or the Wonderful Lamp. The lavish original production stretched to such a length that it had to be presented on two evenings, and the composer contributed 80 minutes of music scored for full orchestra, chorus, and vocal soloists. The director cut and rearranged the music to the extent that Nielsen disavowed responsibility for the production, but later went on to arrange the music for concert presentation, and in this form it has remained popular particularly with Danish audiences. Nielsen was a master of writing for the theater, and the music for Aladdin is colorful and varied in its moods and styles. It's tinged with a mild Middle Eastern exoticism, and Nielsen consciously evokes the simplicity of folk traditions in some sections. Many of the set pieces were intended for moments of stage spectacle -- processions, dances, and celebrations -- and give the composer the opportunity to let his imagination run free, and there are many occasions of sweeping Romantic passion. While the score doesn't represent Nielsen's most profound or original musical thought, it's an entirely attractive piece. Aladdin's length and requirements for large musical forces make performances of the complete score relatively rare, so this lively, evocative, and musically nuanced performance with the Danish National Symphony and Chamber Choir D/R, led by Gennady Rozhdestvensky, make an ideal introduction to the work. Chandos' sound is clean, and captures a good balance between warmth and clarity.
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