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Erich Kunz: Opera and Operetta Arias and Viennese Songs
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 – 1791): Le nozze di Figaro: Cinque, dieci (w Irmgard Seefried); Se vuol ballare; Non piu andra; Tutto è disposto; Così fan tutte: Questa piccola offerta (w Blanche Thebom); Don Giovanni: Madamina! Il catalogo è questo; Die Zauberflöte: Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja; Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen; Papagena! Papagena! (with Elisabeth Rutgers and Three Wiener Sängerknaben); Richard WAGNER (1813 – 1883): Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Ein Werbelied! (w Paul Schöffler); Johann STRAUSS II (1825 – 1899): Der lustige Krieg: Nur für Natur; Eine Nacht in Venedig: Treu sein, das liegt mir nicht; Komm in die Gondel; Ach, wie so herrlich zu schau’n; Der Zigeunerbaron: Ja das Schreiben und das Lesen; Carl ZELLER (1842 – 1898): Der Vogelhändler: Wie mein Ahnl zwanzig Jahr; Edmund EYSLER (1874 – 1949): Mutterl, lieb’s Mutterl; FELLNER – SCHNEIDER: ’s Nussdorfer Sternderl; KRAKAUER: Du guater Himmelvater; Gustav PICK (1832 – 1921): Fiakerlied
Erich Kunz (baritone), Irmgard Seefried (soprano), Blanche Thebom (mezzo), Elisabeth Rutgers (soprano), Paul Schöffler (bass baritone), Wiener Philharmoniker/Herbert von Karajan, Rudolf Moralt, Otto Ackermann, Karl Böhm; Orchestra of the Glyndebourne Festival/Fritz Busch; Orchester der Wiener Volksoper/Anton Paulik; Faltl-Kemmeter-Schrammeln
Recorded in Vienna and Glyndebourne 1944, 1947 – 1951
PREISER RECORDS 90550 [79:28]

 

Erich Kunz (1909 – 1995) was born in Vienna and had his training there at the Academy of Music. He made his debut in 1933 and spent the next eight years at small opera houses in Germany and Austria. In 1941 he signed with the Vienna State Opera, where he remained for the rest of his long career. He soon became a favourite with the audiences in Vienna, not only as an opera singer, but as an operetta hero and as a singer of popular Viennese songs. He limited his opera appearances to the roles that suited him best, mainly the comic Mozart roles, which also constitute a major part of this disc. We also get a substantial chunk from Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, where he sings Beckmesser to Paul Schöffler’s Hans Sachs. Beckmesser was a part he also sang at the Bayreuth Festival. As Clemens Höslinger says in his informative booklet note: "Erich Kunz did not have a grand, brilliant voice. The natural qualities of his voice were quite good, but not extraordinary." This is true, but as soon as he starts singing you forget all this, for the sheer charm, the warmth, the ability to give a face to his singing, the elegance, the twinkle in his eye and the total naturalness. He is a kind of opera’s answer to Bing Crosby. I could stop here and just say: Go out and buy! Whatever recordings you already have of this arias, sung but however great and world-famous artists, you will never hear them more beguilingly sung!

Still I feel that I have to add a few comments. His Mozart singing is beyond reproach, of course, since he had already sung these parts numerous times when these recordings were made and continued to do so for many years to come. He recorded Figaro and Papageno with Karajan and he recorded Guglielmo (Così fan tutte) with Karl Böhm for Decca, a recording I have treasured for decades. His Figaro is infatuated, joyful, angry and vengeful in turns. His Papageno is jolly, carefree, longing, sad. You could feel that his Leporello is too genial, but I think that the elegance that should be found in a Mozart character has been underplayed by many latter-day singing actors in favour of a more dramatic approach. And Kunz is just as expressive with words. Few singers have articulated better. It is fascinating to hear his Beckmesser, from a 1944 broadcast, but I think he can be heard to better advantage in a live recording from Bayreuth 1952.

The operetta excerpts have the same qualities: the charm, the liveliness, the caressing of phrases, the small rhythmic inflexions. The three songs from A Night in Venice could hardly be bettered and when he changes over to his inimitable Viennese dialect for the remaining operetta songs and for the four songs with the Schrammel-Quartet we are in musical Heaven! It goes without saying that his flexibility also includes such basic abilities as rubato, small tempo changes within the phrase. And here we have that natural musicality again. Never for a moment do we get the impression that he makes a ritardando for its own sake. He has no need to show off. All such inflexions come from within, from a musical need. Sentimental they may be, some of these Viennese songs, but never over-saccharine thanks to Kunz’s tongue-in-cheek delivery. The sound quality is acceptable, the Vienna orchestras are conducted by great names, the Schrammel musicians have played this music all their lives. What else is there to complain about?

Treat yourself to this, the most charming of singers, in the repertoire he took to his heart. You will take Erich Kunz to your heart, too!

Göran Forsling

see also review by Jonathan Woolf



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