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Johann STRAUSS (1825 - 1899)
Die Fledermaus
Julius Patzak (tenor) - Gabriel von Eisenstein; Hilde Güden (soprano) - Rosalinde; Kurt Preger (baritone) - Frank; Sieglinde Wagner (contralto) - Prince Orlofsky; Anton Dermota (tenor) - Alfred; Alfred Poell (baritone) - Dr Falke; August Jaresch (tenor buffo) - Dr Blind; Wilma Lipp (soprano) - Adele
The Chorus of the Vienna State Opera,
TheVienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Clemens Krauss
rec. Musikvereinsaal, Vienna, 22 June, 16-22 September 1950
Die Fledermaus Gala
Eijen Magyar [3:06]
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Clemens Krauss
Franz LEHÁR (1870 - 1948)
Die lustige Witwe: Vilja [5:14]
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano)
Das Land des Lächelns: Immer nur lächeln [4:31]
Nicolai Gedda (tenor)
Zigeunerliebe: Lied und Czardas [3:57]
Ljuba Welitsch (soprano)
Der Zigeunerbaron: Als flotter Geist [2:43]
Julius Patzak (tenor)
Der Zarewitsch: Das Leben ruft … Liebe mich, küsse mich [3:57]
Lisa Della Casa (soprano) & Helge Roswaenge (tenor)
Eine Nacht in Venedig: Ach, wie so herrlich [3:23]
Erich Kunz (baritone)
Viennese Heurigen Songs
Mei' Muatterl war a Wienerin [3:20]
Das hat kein Goethe g'schrieb'n [2:42]
Wie mein Ahnl zwanzig Jahr [3:11]
Erst wann's aus wird sein [3:05]
Ich muss wieder einmal in Grinzing sein [2:55]
Fein, fein schmeckt uns der Wein [3:20]
Die Stadt der Lieder [3:18]
Wiener Fiakerlied [3:06]
Julius Patzak (tenor)
Schrammel Quartet
rec. 1953
NIMBUS NI 7954/5 [74:46 + 69:30]

Experience Classicsonline


When the LP format appeared in the early 1950s this Decca recording was one of the first complete sets in the opera/operetta genre to appear. It also had the market to itself until the middle of the decade when Karajan's Columbia version with Schwarzkopf, Gedda and Kunz, maybe not swept the board but anyway was a more than worthy alternative (see review). It was unfortunately recorded in mono even though the stereo technique was already employed and one can understand Karajan's wish to do it again in updated sound. It came five years later, a spectacular production with the famous gala performance where a dozen of the world's greatest singers appeared in light repertoire. With Hilde Güden singing Rosalinde as on the Krauss recording and a fine line-up of other singers, including Vienna born Waldemar Kmentt as Eisenstein, it was a fine achievement and it is one of the gems in my collection but for the true Viennese feeling the Krauss set under consideration is hard to beat.

It has its drawbacks though. The recording is more than acceptable, considering the date, but the dynamics are limited and the string tone is not the warmest. Nimbus have done a good job, transferring it, and no one with some tolerance need hesitate on technical grounds. One quickly adjusts to the sound picture which is clean, though there is some background rumble. Naxos also released this recording a couple of years back. I haven't heard that transfer but knowing a lot of other issues of historical material from both companies I know that they are normally running each other close.

The other drawback - at least to those who are fluent in German - is the total omission of the spoken dialogue. For repeated listening this can sometimes be a blessing but it certainly disrupts the structure of the piece and one loses the continuity of the plot.

With such idiomatic playing and singing these omissions are easily forgiven, however, and from the first bars of the overture we are in a joyful Viennese mood, rather light and swift with that inimitable lilt that is associated with Strauss and the Austrian tradition. Clemens Krauss was a close friend and champion of Richard Strauss but he was also the instigator of the famous New Year's Day Concerts at Musikverein, which he led until his death in 1954.

Viennese charm also permeates the singing from the first notes of Alfred's Täubchen, das entflattert ist, meltingly sung by the legendary Mozart tenor Anton Dermota. Wilma Lipp is the most glittering Adele one can imagine and in both her set pieces she is in the same league as Rita Streich on the first Karajan set or Renate Holm on the Boskovsky. Güden is an alluring Rosalinde and in marginally fresher voice than on the second Karajan set made almost ten years later. She is as enthralling as Schwarzkopf. Orlofsky is sometimes sung by a tenor - as on the first Karajan and Karl Böhm's set from the early 1970s or, peculiarly, by the bass Ivan Rebroff singing the part falsetto on the Carlos Kleiber recording - but here it is the fruity contralto of Sieglinde Wagner who impersonates the Russian prince and she is almost as good as Brigitte Fassbaender on the Boskovsky set.

Julius Patzak wasn't equipped with one of the largest and most sappy tenor voices but he was expressive, sang off the words and could charm an audience with his elegance and sensitiveness - not a common feature in all operetta performances. Gedda on the Karajan set is of course superb, which he also is on the Boskovsky but there he is almost to boisterous - in the dialogue that is. Alfred Poell is a manly and sonorous Falke and he sings what for me is the highspot of this operetta, Brüderlein in the second act finale in true Viennese spirit - though I have to admit that no one has ever surpassed Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau on the Boskovsky. Kurt Preger is a more than usual lyrical Frank.

On these factors alone the set can be recommended, if not as a first choice at least as an historic alternative to a more modern recording. But it has other advantages as well. One is the Gala Performance, inserted towards the end of act II, with some really outstanding numbers culled from other sets or separate recordings of roughly the same vintage. Schwarzkopf, Gedda and Kunz all starred in the series of operettas recorded by Columbia under Otto Ackermann and they are too well known to be commented upon. Kunz's Ach wie so herrlich, by the way, is not from the complete set but a slightly earlier (1949) recording with another expert on Viennese music, Anton Paulik, conducting. Julius Patzak appears also here in a riveting performance of Barinkay's Als flotter Geist from Der Zigeunerbaron, Lisa Della Casa and Danish born Helge Roswaenge are splendid in the duet from Der Zarewitsch, and the czardas from Zigeunerliebe, complete with un-credited violinist, is outstandingly sung by the great Ljuba Welitsch. What a voice! Krauss opens the Gala with a riveting Eijen Magyar and after the Gala, included in the complete recording as ballet, we are treated to a lovely version of Frühlingsstimmen.

But there is even more to come. As a bonus we get eight Viennese songs, sung by Patzak and idiomatically accompanied by the Schrammel Quartet. As a lifelong lover of these songs I enjoyed them intensely and, apart from Erich Kunz, few have sung them so to the manner born. Some of Kunz's recordings can be found on a Preiser disc, which I reviewed about four years ago, and it is well worth having, not only for the songs - there is some overlapping - but also for his genial and charming Mozart.

The set as a whole is a pleasure from beginning to end and every lover of this most scintillating of operettas should hear what is by some distance the most idiomatically Viennese recording of it. The bonuses further adorn this issue.

Göran Forsling




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