Notes and Editorial Reviews
A new recording of Nielsen’s second opera, Maskarade, and one of the great operatic comedies of all time? No, this is a reissue of the 1977 Dansk Musik Antologi production that appeared in the US on Unicorn LPs. It was widely hailed on both sides of the Atlantic, winning a number of prizes, and reasonably so. For it was well recorded and performed, without the various cuts over the years that, sanctioned or otherwise, eliminated as much as half-an-hour of music.
The cast was almost uniformly excellent. Among the standouts, baritone Ib Hansen makes a wonderfully sonorous and blustering Jeronimus, capable of being both imposing and ridiculous at the same time. Tonny Landy’s Leander is all warmth, youth, and meltingly poetic manner—though at the time of this recording, he was pushing 40. As Leonora, Edith Brodersen displays a world-class lyric soprano and a fine technique. (What a shame she died in her mid-forties, just seven years after having moved to Copenhagen and joining the Royal Theater.) In the small part of the night watchman, bass Jørgen Klint is notable for his rock-solid production and sardonically dark tone. There’s only one substandard performance in this release, that of Christian Sørensen’s Arv. The tenor speak-sings nearly every line of this servant part, and to compound the damage, goes over-the-top in his efforts to create a buffoon. Fortunately, he’s easily ignored in a field of such fine voices and characterization.
Only by looking carefully at the box would you notice, in very small lettering, “Super Audio CD.” So just how does one take a two-channel stereo recording, without access to all the pre-mix materials, and process it into an SACD across four or five channels? The answer is, you can’t. You can fiddle around with moving the original two channels, recorded in analog nearly 30 years ago, but it’s impossible to create a true SACD image when none was originally made. This sounds perilously close to a description of the usually awful “enhanced stereo” mono reissues of the latter LP era, but fear not. If this SACD adds nothing to create a sense of surround sound, at least it detracts nothing, as well. I did find the SACD marginally less cloudy and more tinny than my LP copy, but that’s due to digital processing. A slight cut to the treble kept the transparency of the sound while cutting its sharp edges.
There were plenty of good photos from the stage production that gave birth to this recording in the original LP accompanying booklet. All but four of those have been removed from the SACD booklet, alas, but the fine, if anonymous, liner notes of that original set have been replaced by an excellent essay by Niels Bo Foltmann. Danish/English/German texts are provided, with listed cuts plus timings.
If you haven’t heard Maskarade before, this is an excellent chance to become familiar with a witty, wonderfully sane, and vivacious work that deserves far greater celebrity than it has ever received.
Barry Brenesal, FANFARE