three stage works contained on this CD set are from Lortzing’s early
period and were first issued as separate CDs by D & G when the notes
were only written in German [MD+G L3335]. The works either follow the
pattern of Weber’s Oberon where spoken dialogue runs between
the musical numbers as a commentary (Don Juan and Ali Pascha),
or as a play within the singspiel (Szenen aus Mozarts Leben).
Albert Lortzing was born into a German theatrical
family and was himself an actor as well as a composer, much influenced
in style mby Mozart and Weber. Today he is principally remembered for
Zar & Zimmermann (1837), Der Wildschütz
(1842), and Der Waffenschmied (1845) which still play
in Germany. But his journey of preperation for the writing of these
was a long one and started off by first using arrangements of other
composers to create incidental music and singspiel which increasingly
included more of his own music. Lortzing went on to influence Wagner
and Johann Strauss II.
The comprehensive CD notes of this set by Irmlind Capelle
in English, French and German (with the librettos to Ali, Pascha
von Janina and Scenes from Mozart’s Life provided in German)
give useful background concerning the writing of the pieces which took
place when Lortzing was living with his family in Detmold, Germany:
…After a three days' journey from Cologne Albert
Lortzing arrived in Detmold on November 4, 1826, with his wife Rosine,
daughter Charlotte Albertina, and niece Christine Kupfer to take
his new post as an actor and singer at the Lippe Royal Court Theatre.
Lortzing's theatrical involvement was unusually broad during his
Detmold period. As an actor, he played major roles in tragedies
such as those of Laertes in Shakespeare's Hamlet or the Fool
in King Lear. In addition, he sang numerous roles in farces
and ballad operas as well as the roles of Don Giovanni in Mozart's
opera of the same name, Papageno in The Magic Flute, Dickson
in Boieldieu's La Dame blanche, and Figaro in Rossini's The
Barber of Seville. Lortzing does not seem to have felt comfortable
in all these roles because in 1828 he told his parents that he no
longer intended to perform serious, tragic roles.
During this period, the Lippe Royal Court Theatre was
a travelling troupe lent institutional support by the court. It performed
only during a few winter months and in the summers, toured. Lortzing
viewed his post in Detmold from the very beginning only as a temporary
post and in 1833 he enthusiastically accepted an offer to move to Leipzig
to work with Sebald Ringelhardt, a former director known from Cologne.
Lortzing was first and foremost an actor and remained so until 1844,
even though by this date he had already composed his Zar und Zimmermann
and Der Wildschütz, two operas more successful than all
other German operas from this period.
Lortzing wrote complete incidental scores for the stage,
which were often arrangements by other composers. The theatres paid
incidental works by outside composers only when such works were particularly
successful, as in the case of Weber's music for Preciosa. Lortzing
composed a complete score for Eugène Scribe's play Yelva oder
Die Stumme and an extensive accompaniment for the pantomimic Scene
IV,1 in Auffenberg's Der Lowe von Kurdistan. The most remarkable
composition in this connection is certainly the music for Christian
Dietrich Grabbe's Don Juan und Faust (1829), for in this case
Lortzing worked closely with the poet, whose high standards he was expected
to meet. Just as the text is clearly built on well known treatments
of the libretti to Mozart's Don Giovanni and Louis Spohr's opera
Faust so, too, Lortzing's composition draws on the music of these
two masters. He took over whole numbers, for example Spohr’s Polonaise
and Mozart's Minuet (as ball music), set Mozart's Champagne
Aria to another text, and cited salient passages from both operas
by forming from them an overture very passable in its content.
Like any other composer of the times, Lortzing received
a one-time fee for the vaudevilles (ballad operas drawing on familiar
melodies) or operas accepted for performance during his term of employment.
With this fee the theatre management acquired the performance rights
in perpetuity. For example, for Ali Pascha, including the orchestral
part that he himself had written out in full, Lortzing received 50 thaler,
and for Der Pole und sein Kind and Weihnachtsabend 25
thaler each. The vaudevilles, Andreas Hofer and Szenen aus
Mozarts Leben (Scenes from Mozart's Life) from his last year in
Detmold, were not accepted for performance in Detmold or in other places.
Ali, Pascha von Janina
Lortzing had composed the opera Ali, Pascha von
Janina in Cologne during 1823 but did not begin writing his
vaudevilles until 1832, During the intervening years his only stage
compositions were the incidental pieces mentioned above and an extensive
arrangement of Johann Adam Hiller's popular singspiel Die Jagd.
Three to four years would go by before his first full length opera was
composed, Die beiden Schützen. This means is that Lortzing's
works from his Detmold period are documents attesting to his progress
toward the capability to write his own opera. Here it is particularly
striking that after his first attempt at independent composition in
Ali Pascha, Lortzing initially spent most of his time arranging,
in order to train his own capabilities.
Composed in 1823 (but not premièred until February
1, 1828, in Münster), Ali, Pascha von Janina exhibits all
the signs of an early work in which a young composer with much verve
and personal focus tries to master his material while also aiming at
showy effects does not take the performers into consideration. Even
in his first work, Lortzing transformed his source material into a libretto
without external assistance. On the whole, Lortzing was skilful in employing
all the elements required for an effective opera, and at this early
time his confidence in the musical representation of the characters
is astonishing. He wrote choral numbers of the most varied colour, arias
of various style (e.g. Ali's Revenge aria and Bernier's following Merry
aria). His capability for the musical design of larger scenes is remarkable,
and on the whole his skill in the dramatic structuring of the opera
is a complete success. The overture preceding the opera is instrumented
quite thickly. Formally, it operates somewhat confusingly with five
themes or characteristic motifs in part derived from later numbers.
To sample the inventiveness characteristics of Lortzing’s
music in Ali Pascha , try the Introduction, track CD1 tk.3. One
of the most haunting numbers is the duet with Bernier and Arianna with
its charming melody and appealing orchestral motifs (CD1 tk.11). The
string parts in the March (CD1 tk.5) has a familiar Rossinian ring to
it but the vocal lines are of a different and more robust character.
The singers are good: Axel Mendrok (ten) in Bernier’s aria (CD 1 tk.4)
is uses warmly expressive dynamics and flowing lyrical phrasing.
The compositions of Lortzing's Detmold period shed
interesting light on his development as a composer. In his vaudevilles
he found the musical language which would also stamp his first operas
and be received so favourably by the public. The tasks that he had to
carry out in the Detmold theatre business also equipped him with the
know-how for romantic and serious scenes.
Scenes from Mozart's life
Mozart's life and most of all the circumstances of
his early death have always been of special interest. One of the dark
chapters in Mozart's life around which legends soon grew was his relationship
to the court music director Antonio Salieri (1750-1825). Salieri was
blamed for numerous intrigues designed to ruin Mozart's reputation and
sometimes even assigned responsibility for his early death. The relationship
between the two also inspired literary elaborations in which the rivals
and their personalities were depicted with great freedom. These literary
efforts began with Pushkin's novel, and culminated in Peter Schaffer's
play, which circulated far and wide in its film version. Such works
may have made Mozart and Salieri popular, but they also falsified the
true nature of their relationship.
When Lortzing composed his singspiel, Szenen
aus Mozarts Leben (Scenes from Mozart's Life) in 1833, this
development was still in its initial stage. Although the rumour that
Salieri had poisoned Mozart kept resurfacing, it was also no less immediately
refuted. The contrast between the composers was seen less in details
than in the general opposition between ltalian and German music. It
was thus that Lortzing limited himself to contrast this in his libretto,
which we can assume he wrote himself, as he always did at this time,
and assigned the intrigues to the factotum Anton Stadler.
The first part of the singspiel shows Salieri surrounded
his singers at a banquet in the Prater. In contrast, Mozart is shown
in the home setting of his family and friends. It is repeatedly emphasized
that Mozart lives only for his art and always has the welfare of those
around him in view. (This picture of the composer is crowned by a feast
in the last part of the singspiel.) During this feast Mozart receives
the late recognition of the emperor with an appointment to a conducting
post, and all his friends praise him owing to his art and integrity.
The music of this singspiel is not an independent composition
by Albert Lortzing. Rather, as in the case of all four vaudevilles from
the years 1832-33, it is based on arrangements of existing melodies,
with popular numbers from operas and singspiels generally being employed.
The Szenen aus Mozart Leben exhibits a number of special features
setting it apart from the other vaudevilles: here Lortzing exclusively
draws on music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, including a number of instrumental
compositions and the Requiem (!); at times combining different
compositions to form a single number, and clearly abbreviating others.
The following chart summarizes his borrowings:
Overture: Adagio and Fugue for String
Quartet KV 546,1
m. 40ff: String Quartet C major KV 465, 4th movement.
Nr 1: Cosi fan tutte KV 588, Finale 2nd Act
Nr.2: Requiem KV 626, Dies Irae.
Nr.3: Requiem KV 626, Rex tremendae,
m. 1 10
m. 16ff.: Sonatas, D major KV 284,1st
movement and KV 311, 1st movement
Nr.4: Wiegenlied (Lullaby by Flies) (attributed
to Mozart) KV 350 = C 8.48
Nr.5: Sonata C major KV 330, 2nd movement
Nr.6: Notturno for 2 Sopranos and Bass KV 437,
m. 67ff. Bandeiterzett for Soprano,Tenor and Bass KV 441.
Nr.7: Sonatas D major KV 311, 1 1st
movement and KV 284, 3rd movement
Nr.8: Cosi fan tutte KV 588, No. 21.
Nr.9: Requiem KV 626, Sanctus, m.
1-9 m. 14ff Titus KV 621, Nr. 26.
Lortzing's employment of string quartets and piano
sonatas meant that in this vaudeville he would only use elements that
assured success. In contrast, the Szenen aus Mozarts Leben calls
for a listener with musical knowledge. Here Lortzing the composer was
at work, not so much Lortzing the man of the theatre. It was outside
his stage works that he took pleasure in working with Mozart's music,
which he always chose as his model. These notes are taken from the detailed
CD booklet by Irmlind Capelle.
The singers and actors are excellent and produce a
good performance. The choir, on the other hand, is thin and requires
more singers. Of the soloists, Klaus Häger (bar) as Salieri gives
an authoritative portrayal of this formidable character with good diction.
Petra Hasse (sop) as Constanze, gives a delicate and heart-stirring
rendering of her ‘lullaby’ (CD2 tk.8) with rich timbre. The organisation
of the singers’ lines in the quartet (CD2 tks.10/12) show how Lortzing
has improved his writing over the five years’ interval following Ali
Pascha, in which there is a disappointing attempt at quartet writing.
The Requiem sanctus makes an excellent choice for the finale.