C 861 132 IUnder his baton, the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera played with a precision and impulsiveness that one finds all too rarely in this repertoire. Neil Shicoff was unparalleled in the title role. This tenor part could hardly be sung in a manner more individual, more authentic, or with greater brilliance and subtlety. The same could be said of Michèle Crider, who as Elvira on that opening night in Vienna achieved the well-nigh impossible feat of balancing vocal dexterity and dramatic effect. While they might have been unlucky in her love, the two rivals for her favour matched her vocal prowess. As the King (and soon-to-be Emperor), Carlos Alvarez sang his part with a fresh, full-sounding baritone that offered the greatest vocal elegance and sophistication. The merciless Silva, whose intransigence seals the opera’s unhappy end, was sung by Roberto Scandiuzzi with all the necessary gloom in his bass voice. They are all supported by the Chorus of the Vienna State Opera. These ideal conditions allowed the confrontations of the main characters and, above all, those grandiose ensembles and finales that are a particular delight in every Ernani performance to unfold to the greatest effect. It is incomprehensible that this work, which had enjoyed a long period of success in Vienna with more than 200 performances from 1844 to the 1920s, should have been seen so rarely on stage since the Second World War.
ORFEO 4 CD C 877 134 I
Although we shall already be commemorating the 25th anniversary of the death of Irmgard Seefried on 23 November 2013, this soprano’s magnificent artistry as demonstrated on the operatic stage, in the concert hall and in the genre of the lied is still remembered well by music-lovers today. She came originally from Swabia, and after making her stage debut in Aachen (where she worked for the first time with Herbert von Karajan) she moved to the Vienna State Opera in 1943 and remained attached to the house for more than thirty years.
C 877 134 IShe developed into one of the most important singers of her time, especially in the Mozart repertoire. Her performances and recordings as Pamina in the Zauberflöte, Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro and Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte under conductors such as Karl Böhm and Joseph Krips made her into a role model for the generations after her.
Irmgard Seefried, ca. 1949
Foto: Private archive Gottfried KrausExcerpts from these roles can be heard in this anniversary box from Orfeo. Many recordings by Irmgard Seefried that were hitherto unavailable, or available only in poor copies on the grey market, have here been rigorously restored. Our collection begins in the year 1944 and features excerpts from well-known radio productions under Karl Böhm (Mozart’s Zauberflöte, Beethoven’s Fidelio, Wagner’s Meistersinger and Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos) alongside other, less well-known recordings of individual arias by Haydn, Weber and Puccini under the baton of Leopold Ludwig. Her Mozart performances – which took her all over the globe – are documented here with various conductors including Ernest Ansermet, Wilhelm Furtwängler and Bruno Walter. Besides her star roles mentioned above we find works here such as the motet Exsultate, jubilate and the aria Non temer, amato bene, in which her husband Wolfgang Schneiderhan took on the violin solo part, as he often did during those years when Seefried was at the height of her career. Naturally, a homage to Irmgard Seefried cannot omit her song repertoire. This is documented here by a selection of radio recordings from the 1950s and ’60s. Whether in songs by Haydn and Mozart or by Schubert, Schumann and Brahms, her diction is always remarkable. Furthermore, her musical approach was thoroughly natural (in the best sense of the word) and this always allowed Seefried to establish a direct connection with her audience. This is especially the case for the programme chosen for the last CD in our new anthology, which at first glance seems a little odd: Mussorgsky’s Nursery songs, recorded in 1958 with her “constant” accompanist Erik Werba, and Chansons from three centuries, a German Radio broadcast from 1967. These add new, fascinating aspects to round off Irmgard Seefried’s artistic profile.
The requirements of running a festival must at times seem paradoxical: exceptional artists are gladly engaged time and again, but at the same time the uniqueness of their achievements is devalued by this repetition. One of the personalities who for years helped to mould the image of the Salzburg Festival was undoubtedly Wilhelm Furtwängler.
C 880 132 IBut the fact that he conducted Verdi’s Otello in the summer of 1951, on the 50th anniversary of the composer’s death, was one of those coups that give a festival its particular appeal. At the helm of the Vienna Philharmonic, Furtwängler succeeded on the opening night in turning the audience’s surprise into enthusiasm. The thoroughly symphonic conception of this late opera score of Verdi’s was brilliantly transformed by Furtwängler into a kind of “psychological drama” of its title hero, sung by Ramón Vinay at the height of his vocal powers – a tireless heldentenor with a rich variety of shadings in his voice. As the scheming Iago, Paul Schöffler’s extraordinarily sophisticated baritone was his equal, just as Dragica Martini, at the beginning of her international career, proved a perfect Desdemona, possessed as she was of a most graceful soprano voice. Great pains had been taken to cast the production, right down to the less extensive roles (for example, Anton Dermota sang Cassio and Josef Greindl was Lodovico), and together with the chorus of the Vienna State Opera, which had been excellently prepared, the result was a performance of Otello that is regarded as exemplary to this day and is now available on CD, its sound fully restored.
István Kertész’s early death from a swimming accident in 1973, aged just 44, meant that he performed very little in Salzburg.In the previous decade he had quickly established himself as a first-class conductor of the younger generation with a large repertoire ranging from the Viennese classics to the Modern. In Salzburg in 1962 he confirmed his reputation, conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in a programme that reached from Ludwig van Beethoven’s 8th Symphony via Richard Strauss’s Four last songs to Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, all of which made evident Kertész’s stylistic flexibility – everything was surging with energy and played with great lucidity. This concert (and thus the present recording of it) was further enriched by the presence of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf – a Strauss interpreter without peer to the present day.
Shura Cherkassky was characterized by a degree of “unpredictability” not least in matters of programme planning.
C 882 132 BThis pianist was several times a guest at the Salzburg Festival, but it was perhaps precisely his ability to display his virtuosity in music of the most varied constellations and epochs that meant he remained less fixed in the collective memory of the Festival audiences than did many a prominent colleague. But if one hears the recording of his solo concert from 1961, one is not surprised that the brilliance of Cherkassky’s piano playing was at the time appreciated as much as the sense of balance that he achieved in his interpretations. Thus in the concert documented on this CD he was able to follow a well-proportioned interpretation of Mozart’s Sonata K 330 with Schumann’s high-Romantic C-major Fantasy and then contrasted a powerful performance of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition with Barber’s trenchant Excursions. With Chopin’s Nocturne op. 55/1 and the Andante spianato et Grande Polonaise brillante, Cherkassky finally arrived at the composer with whom his name is perhaps most associated today.
The Soviet pianist Emil Gilels also had a huge repertoire. He began his international career at a relatively late date and impressed one in particular with the carefully considered sense of unity and interconnectedness of his concert programmes.This was also the case in Gilels’ penultimate concert at the Salzburg Festival, in the summer of 1976. Beethoven’s middle-period sonatas op. 26 and op. 31/1 can rarely have been heard in such a rounded, masterful interpretation, so devoid of any superficial effects as is here the case in Gilels’ performance (even in the variation movement of op. 26). After the interval he moved on to Schumann (with the Toccata op. 7 and the Arabeske op. 18) and to Brahms (the Four Ballads op. 10), though this was far more than a mere musico-historical progression, for Gilels here entered into dynamic realms of extreme subtlety and tenderness alongside thundering eruptions, all of which gave expression to the manner in which these post-Beethovenian composers explored to the full the formal possibilities inherent in the music.
The privilege of performing Schubert’s Winterreise at the Salzburg Summer Festival is reserved for only remarkable artistic personalities. In 1978, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Maurizio Pollini came together for the first and only time as a lied duo in order to perform this great cycle.
C 884 131 BWe must be all the more grateful that the Austrian Radio recorded their encounter. The fact that this interpretation remained unrepeated is perhaps only explicable in that something so unique should perhaps remain thus. Fischer-Dieskau’s balance of words and music remains unsurpassed – here he also succeeded in creating a mighty, continuous arc of tension from the first to the last of the 24 songs. With his accents and details in the tempi and dynamics – at times quite startling – Pollini proved that the piano part in Schubert’s songs is far more than a mere “accompaniment”. It is not least Festival documents such as this that prove how great musicians often bring forth extraordinary things on unusual terrain.
ORFEO 2 CD C 879 132 I
How time flies: it’s already thirteen years since Christian Thielemann made his celebrated debut on the Green Hill of Bayreuth with The Mastersingers in the year 2000. The notion that this work – which Wagner had not conceived for the acoustic of Bayreuth – could in all its counterpoint be made to sound so transparent in the Festspielhaus was an experience that was astonishing and enthralling to audiences and press alike.
Foto: KranichphotoIn Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and in Parsifal just a year later (when he stepped in at short notice) he confirmed the prevailing impression that there was hardly another conductor today with such a natural approach to Wagner’s oeuvre and to the special challenges of each and every one of his music dramas. Thielemann exuded a sense of commanding calmness, and yet the music flowed under his baton in a manner that afforded the singers the musical space to breathe. By the time of his Tannhäuser première in 2002, Thielemann was finally able to make his own mark (not least thanks to his having been co-responsible for choosing the soloists). He prepared and conducted the Ring that ran from 2006 to 2010, and last year added the Flying Dutchman too. Thus he has covered the whole of the Bayreuth canon there, with the exception of Lohengrin and Tristan – though it hardly needs mentioning that he has often enough made a stir with these same two works outside Bayreuth. As, for example, with Lohengrin at his newest musical “home”, the Semper Opera, where he is the Chief Conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden.
C 879 132 IIn his native city of Berlin, where he was General Music Director at the Deutsche Oper from 1997 until 2004, he conducted all the works of the Bayreuth canon, beginning with Tristan (a work that was in fact crucial to his international success). He also conducted Tristan in Hamburg and Nuremberg (where he had his first position as General Music Director), in Bologna and at the Vienna State Opera. The Musikverein in Vienna was the venue of his concert with the orchestra of the Deutsche Oper in 2004 that is now being released on CD by Orfeo. It offers more than just an “interim report” on Thielemann’s already profound understanding of Wagner. The preludes to Lohengrin and Tristan were on the programme as well as the “Liebestod” from the latter and the Good Friday Music from Parsifal. The fact that the vocal parts were absent was more than made up for by the immense spectrum of orchestral colours on offer. Already in his collaboration with the orchestra of the Deutsche Oper, Thielemann had cultivated a characteristic blend of sound that allowed him to bring an intense luminosity and radiance to the great operatic and symphonic repertoire beyond Wagner, stretching to Beethoven, Marschner, Bruckner, Pfitzner and Strauss. For this same reason, interludes such as “Siegfried’s Rhine Journey” or the Funeral March from Götterdämmerung, despite all their latent bombast, never sound bulky or coarse under Thielemann (whether in the opera house or the concert hall). Similarly, the Tannhäuser Overture and the prelude to The Mastersingers (as already mentioned above with regard to Thielemann’s Bayreuth activities) are enlivened by Thielemann’s careful attention to the musical structure and the voice-leading in the orchestra, but above all by his irrepressible joy in dynamic intensification, from the finest pianissimo to the mightiest fortissimo, as also in overpowering tempo shifts and rubato effects. They remain an integral part of the overall musical context. Even the somewhat superficially effective overture to Rienzi is remarkable for its verve and subtlety. The decision to place this five-act opera on Bayreuth’s additional programme under Thielemann in the summer of 2013 seems all the more sensible in the light of his performance of the overture in Vienna. Who else, if not Thielemann, could offer a positive overall impression of this grand opera?
ORFEO 1 DVD-Video D 874 131 V
Andris Nelsons has never known indifference: as a child he practised the trumpet until his lips were bloody; as a youth he studied singing and learnt taekwondo; then he became an orchestral trumpet player and at 24 was appointed the General Music Director of the Latvian National Opera in Riga. Seven years later he was elected Chief Conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
Foto: Marco BorggreveHe thus stands today on the podium of the orchestra that Sir Simon Rattle moulded for almost twenty years, and whose repertoire as acquired new, brilliant additions under Nelsons (highlights being, for example, his Tchaikovsky and Strauss). He is also a regular guest conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic and has conducted just about every great orchestra in the world. From the 2014/15 season onwards Nelsons will be the Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and will thus be at the head of one of the USA’s “big five” orchestras. Who is this man who has enjoyed such an astonishing career so early? This is the topic of the film “Genius on fire”. “He doesn’t do things by halves, not in rehearsals either. He is always full of intensity” says the trumpeter Håkan Hardenberger of the conductor. “Every single note in the score is turned into music.
D 874 131 VWith him, everything is important”. During orchestral rehearsals, Andris Nelsons speaks or sings with his trained bass voice in an English-German onomatopoeic linguistic mishmash. To describe the basic atmosphere of a musical motive he constructs verbal pictures and tells stories – clever, witty stories. He uses his hands vigorously – his whole body in fact – in order to make clear to the orchestra what he wants. As a conductor without any affectation of a “maestro”, Andris Nelsons stands for a new generation whose leadership qualities lie in their ability to sweep people off their feet. For two years, the film director Astrid Bscher and her camera followed this exciting, young artist. She travelled with Andris Nelsons to his home city of Riga, met his parents, his friends, his partner Krist?ne Opolais and experienced the conductor on his worldwide search for a new home. The result is a 52-minute portrait that tells not just of music, but of how what we experience is reflected in it. It shows how a serious young man deals with the hype surrounding him, and how he grows and develops as a human being.
ORFEO 1 CD C 854 131 A
When listening to this new CD with Baiba Skride, it is difficult to comprehend why the music world for so long had a negative opinion of Robert Schumann’s works for violin and orchestra.
C 854 131 AIt was the course of history that was to blame – these works were written in the last three years of the composer’s life, and it was a stroke of ill luck that the Violin Concerto in D Minor was completed in 1854 at the fatal moment when Schumann fell foul of mental illness. This fact coloured opinions on the objective quality of the concerto for many years thereafter, and neither Schumann’s own heirs nor those of Joseph Joachim – its intended interpreter – made any move to have it published. Only in the 20th century did people begin to realize (and only gradually, right down to the present day) just how consistent Schumann had been in his approach to the violin and in exploring its possibilities – not least thanks to his enthusiasm for Joachim’s playing. Baiba Skride now offers a performer’s perspective on Schumann’s violin oeuvre by recording not just the Violin Concerto in D Minor but also the Phantasy in C Major op. 131 and the Violin Concerto in A Minor op. 129. The last of these is an arrangement for violin of Schumann’s Cello Concerto that the composer himself made for Joachim. During Schumann’s own lifetime it was the Phantasy that had the best reception. It is cast in a condensed lied form and indeed has the most immediate impact with its restrained, songlike opening for the soloist, its rhythmic vigour and contrasts, and its highly virtuosic cadenza. The transitions in the Violin Concerto transcend the Classical tripartite model, and for these and the quasi-symphonic aspects of its form the soloist must establish a dialogue with his musical partners that is characterized both by flexibility and great precision. Baiba Skride’s experience in chamber music here stands her in excellent stead. And the constellation here with the conductor John Storgårds (who began his career as a violinist) and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, one of the great European orchestras specializing in the Romantic repertoire, offers a combination that is ideal for Schumann’s sound world.
ORFEO 1 CD C 875 131 B
In Richard Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung, the first act of the Valkyrie takes up a special place. The love triangle of the twins Siegmund and Sieglinde and the ominous Hunding stands out in the context of this tetralogy because it possesses its own dramatic tension and self-enclosed trajectory within what is otherwise such a complex, richly interconnected series of works.
C 875 131 BIn musical terms it goes from one climax to the next, from the turbulent orchestral prelude through to Siegmund’s love song “Winterstürme wichen dem Wonnemond” and the passionate union of the sibling couple. At the most recent production at the Vienna State Opera, the twins were sung by Nina Stemme and – for the first time in the role – Johan Botha. Their antagonist Hunding was sung by Ain Anger, whose mighty bass voice was paired with a subtle art of characterization. All three received a tumultuous reception, from the public and critics alike. The soprano and tenor have since enjoyed international success in even more dramatic Wagner roles – Nina Stemme, for example, has sung Brünnhilde in San Francisco, Vienna and Milan, while Johan Botha has sung Tannhäuser in Vienna and London. But already as Sieglinde and Siegmund it was evident that they would retain their vocal beauty and legato phrasing despite the heavy-duty nature of their roles. Both Stemme and Botha are also characterized by remarkably clear diction. Besides singing the role of Siegmund at this year’s Bayreuth concert to celebrate Wagner’s 200th birthday, he will do so again on the Bayreuth stage this summer. The Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera was conducted in 2007 by its General Music Director Franz Welser-Möst and was also on top form in the first act of the Valkyrie. Wagner is rarely heard with such opulence and iridescence while still so transparent and unforced. This CD release of the live performance of the first act is thus also ideal for all those who in this Wagner year are curious to hear more, but perhaps hesitate to get to grips with complete, modern performances of the Ring.
Chormusik & Oratorien
Edition zeitgenössisches Lied
Symphonie & Konzert