> LORTZING Don Juan und Faust etc. [RW]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Albert LORTZING (1801-1851)
Don Juan und Faust (1829)
Incidental music
Gert Westpinal (recitation)
Monika Krause, Friederike Vomhof (sop), Yvi Jänicke (alto)
Ali Pascha von Janina oder Die Franzosen in Albanien (1823/8)
Ali Bey, Pascha von Janina: Karl Fäth (bass)
lbrahim sein Capi Aga: Michael Vier
Bernier, Capitain in französischen Diensten: Axel Mendrok (ten)
Robert, Lieutenant, sein Freund: Karl-Heinz Brandt (ten)
Arianna, eine junge Corfiotin: Monika Krause (mez)
Moderation: Wilhelm Wieben
Cappella der Nordwestdeutschen Musikakademie Detmold
KöIner Rundfunkorchester/Jan Stulen
Szenen aus Mozarts Leben (Scenes from Mozart’s life) (1833)
Singspiel in one Act
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (speech part): Michael Haake
Leopold Mozart, sein Vater (speech part): Franz Müller-Heuser
Constanze Mozart, seine Gattin (sop): Petra Hasse
Aloise Lange, geb. Weber, deren Schwester; Sängerin (alto): Ingelborg Most
Baron van Swieten (speech part): Markus Rührer
Joseph Haydn (speech part): Hajo Förster
Antonio Salieri, Gegner Mozarts (bar): Klaus Häger
Anton Stadler, Hofmusikus (speech part): Wolfgang Trautwein
Georg Albrechtsberger, Mozarts Freund (bass): Hans Griepentrog
Valentin Adamberger, Mozarts Freund (bass): Bernhard Schneider
Mile. Cavaglieri, Sängerin (speech part): Romy Gehrke
Dauer, Singer, Freund Salieris (speech part): Dirk Schortemeier
Ein Stubenmädchen (speech part): Susanne Bredehöft
Erzähler: Karl Wesseler
KöIner Kurrende & KöIner Rundfunkorchester/Eberhard Bäumler
Regie: Karl Wesseler
Rec. Rundfunk, Cologne, 1989/91
MUSIK DABRINGHAUS & GRIMM MDG 609 1059-2 [CD1 74.08 CD2 58.06]

The 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 his operettas,

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.

Raymond Walker



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