> Richard Strauss - Der Rosenkavalier [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Der Rosenkavalier (abridged) (1911)

Die Feldmarschallin – Lotte Lehmann (soprano)
Octavian – Maria Olszewska (Mezzo-soprano)
Der Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau – Richard Mayr (bass)
Sophie – Elisabeth Schumann (soprano)
Herr von Faninal – Victor Madin (baritone)
Marianne Leitmetzerin – Anne Machalsky (soprano)
Valzacchi – Hermann Gallos (tenor)
Annina – Bella Paalen (contralto)
Ein Polizeikommissar – Karl Ettl (tenor)
Ein Wirt – William Wenigk (tenor)
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Robert Heger
Recorded Mittlerer Konzerthaussaal September 1933
Includes various excerpts from Die Rosenkavalier recorded between 1920 and 1931 sung by Richard Tauber, Lotte Lehmann, Barbara Kemp, Conchita Supervia, Richard Mayr and Anni Andrassy, Alexander Kipnis and Else Ruziczka, Barbara Kemp, Delia Rheinhardt and Marion Claire.
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.110191-92 [2 CDs 142.04]

Seldom out of the catalogue this famous set was recorded in less than a week. It preserves the performances of three principals who sang roles less than three months after the work’s 1911 premiere – Lehmann, Schumann and Mayr (indeed Strauss had earmarked Mayr for the premiere itself, a thwarted ambition). The recording is an abridgement of course – it includes about half the score - or as it was styled at the time with contemporary elegance, Selected Passages.

Lehmann was the greatest of the pre-War Marschallins and in her mid forties when she committed the role to disc in 1933. Her lyric soprano had sustained twenty-five years of use since her debut and early career in Hamburg but there is little evidence of obvious wear or frailties. Maybe the voice tends to lie low sometimes but the compensations are legion, in an impersonation strong on knowing but not arch superiority, not least her insouciance with Ochs and her contained sentiment with Olszewska’s Octavian. Other Lehmann performances do survive - Naxos 8.110034-36 preserves a 1939 live Met broadcast and others are known to exist. Olszewska, Bavarian born and Lehmann’s junior by only four years, was a famous Octavian who alternated the part with Delia Reinhardt at Covent Garden and at Vienna. A noted Fricka and Erda her resonant and dark voice was ideally suited to the role as were her quicksilver and impulsive theatrical abilities. Elisabeth Schumann, Lotte Lehmann’s almost exact contemporary, had extensive experience as a Mozartian - Zerlina, Susanna – and this held her in superb stead for Sophie with a voice of glorious purity. Mayr’s portrayal has rather divided opinion over the years. The oldest of the cast’s principals he was fifty-six when the recording came to be made, had sung in the premiere of Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten, and had spent the 1920s cementing his international reputation - first at Covent Garden (as Ochs) in 1924 followed three years later by the first of his four seasons at the Met. His is a blisteringly characterful Ochs and the voice, very slightly frayed, is always put to the service of characterisation and nuance – this is no mere buffo role. Few of the other cast members have much to do and Heger steers Orchestra and Chorus with elegance and surety; carping at his conducting, as has sometimes happened, seems to me misplaced. Doubtless it would have been of great value to have had Bruno Walter but Heger was a determined and eventful musician – and composer – on his own terms and it’s good to hear him.

The discs are supplemented by some remarkable performances from the 1920s. Amongst the highlights are Tauber who is slightly weak in the Italian Singer’s aria, an acoustic from 1920 whilst Supervia is certainly full of character and energy in her duet with Ines Maria Ferraris – I wouldn’t go so far as to say idiomatic, more idiosyncratic perhaps. Mayr returns, four years earlier than the HMV abridged set, for a duet with the delightful Anni Andrassy conducted by Walter (Da lieg’ ich!… ) He is in even better voice in 1929 and a consummate performer. Barbara Kemp makes a fine showing in her appearances from 1927 and from the recorded performance at the Theater Unter der Linden in Berlin in 1928. Lotte Lehmann returns briefly in an excerpt (Oh sei Er gut, Quinquin…) recorded under Manfred Gurlitt in Berlin in 1927. A very pleasant pendant to a much-loved, irreplaceable Rosenkavalier.

Jonathan Woolf

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