C 787 141 AIn Don Juan, Strauss succeeded for the first time in mixing the ingredients that would prove the basis of his success over the coming decades. Along with his big tunes and orchestral virtuosity, there is also a dash of immorality and a slightly wacky humour. Andris Nelsons and the CBSO plunge with delight into the Don’s life of adventure and conquest that comes to an abrupt halt in the final, general pause before he dies in a duel. The macabre end of Till Eulenspiegel, with the hanging of the protagonist, is preceded by a witty exploration of just about every possible orchestral timbre, with Strauss pulling out all the stops to depict Till’s pranks in music. The CBSO once again proves itself a world-class ensemble that is homogenous across all the sections of the orchestra. And this is just what’s needed for the great tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra, “freely based on Friedrich Nietzsche” (as Strauss himself wrote), in which the orchestra under Andris Nelsons achieves a marvellously subtle interpretation, doing equal justice to Zarathustra’s address to the sun and to the mysterious close in which the motives of Man and Nature alternate in their respective keys. In between these two extremes, Nelsons and the CBSO give absolutely everything that this score demands, from its storms of passion to its slithey fugues and the high camp of Zarathustra’s Dance Song. This new recording must undoubtedly already be counted among the highpoints of the current Strauss Year.
ORFEO 1 CD C 885 141 A
ORFEO 3 CD C 876 133 D
Verdi’s Don Carlo was one of the few operas that Herbert von Karajan conducted time and again over several decades – in the 1950s, ’70s and ’80s at the Salzburg Festival, and in 1979/80 in Vienna in his own production, “imported” from Salzburg. In this live recording of May 1979 from the Vienna State Opera we can now hear Karajan’s Don Carlo with an absolute dream team.
C 876 133 DTogether with the chorus and orchestra of the Vienna State Opera, Karajan brilliantly explores the contrasts between the private and the public conflicts that are particularly characteristic of this work, especially in the four-act version that he preferred. Karajan had his ideal ensemble of singers at his disposal in Vienna: Mirella Freni as Elisabetta had already played a major part in this production’s success in Salzburg. She repeated her triumph in Vienna, offering a prime example of Verdi singing with a faultless line and just the right flexibility between lyrical and dramatic expression. José Carreras sang the title role of Elisabetta’s unlucky lover. His brilliant timbre and introvert expression were perfectly suited to his character, so full of hope and yet so hopelessly dependent on himself alone. His only friend Posa was sung by the leading Italian baritone of the day, Piero Cappuccilli. Just like Mirella Freni in Karajan’s Don Carlo ensemble, he too was regarded at the time as without peer in his role, and with good reason. Agnes Baltsa gave her debut as Eboli, and her mezzosoprano voice possessed both the lightness of touch necessary for her “Song of the veil” at the outset, and the power needed for her dramatic closing aria. Ruggero Raimondi might have been somewhat young at the time for his role as Philipp II, but he naturally made one forget the fact completely when one heard his superb vocal expression and his art of musical characterization. And also with Matti Salminen as the Grand Inquisitor we can hear a bass who in 1979 was at an early highpoint in his career, and who would remain at the peak of his profession for many years to come.
ORFEO 2 CD C 861 132 I
Of all Giuseppe Verdi’s early operas, Ernani stands out. As later in Rigoletto, the composer here takes a play by Victor Hugo as his starting point, a play that despite its overwound plot (or perhaps because of it) inspired him to the most exciting, spirited music. To be sure, given the immense vocal demands it makes, a successful performance of Ernani needs an exceptional quartet of singers and a brilliant conductor. But all these were present at the opening night of the 1998 production of Ernani at the Vienna State Opera. Seiji Ozawa, later to be appointed its Music Director, was conducting his first new production at the Opera.
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.
Chormusik & Oratorien
Edition zeitgenössisches Lied
Symphonie & Konzert