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Georg Friedrich HANDEL (1685-1759)
Rodelinde(1725)

Reich, Cäcilie (Soprano)
Mayer, Emma (Alto)
Hüsch, Gerhard (Baritone)
Krauss, Fritz (Baritone)
Ducrue, Hans (Bass)
Chor des Reichssenders Stuttgart
Orchester des Reichssenders Stuttgart
Leonhardt, Carl (Conductor)
Suite from Alcina (1735)

Görlich, Gustav (Conductor)
Aria: O wende dich nicht ab from Radamisto (1720)

Lehmann, Fritz (Conductor)
Two arias from Julius Caesar (1724)

Hast du mich ganz berauscht
Es blaut die nacht

Görlich, Gustav (Conductor)
Rec: 1937-1939, remastered from 78 rpm recordings made for German radio.
HÄNSSLER CD 93.032 [2CDs: 124 min]
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It is not often that I copy texts from the record label’s web site in a review, but this recording is an extreme case. Read what Hänssler says about this set:

"Historically informed performance aficionados take note: this is NOT an "authentic" recreation of a Baroque opera but is instead a fascinating and invaluable document of how one of the most highly creative musical minds of the Post-War years envisioned one of Händel's greatest operas as living art in his time. … This recording, is above all Oskar Hagen's unique vision of Händel's opera. It is both a simplification (in terms of plot) with an added focus on the character of Rodelinde – resulting in a fascinating hybrid of a 20th century opera with its roots in the 18th century."

Things are clear, now. This is not a complete recording in any sense, nor is it even slightly authentic. Nevertheless, this recording has some very interesting elements. First, it represents a historical document of how Handel’s music was performed some seventy years ago. One might be surprised to hear just how little difference there is in the overall approach, both musically and vocally, between this period and the present. Sure, the instruments are different; the opera is sung in German translation; but the vocal approach is not very far from many current treatments of the work.

Soprano Cäcilie Reich is very good in her portrayal of Rodelinda. Her voice is clear and full of emotion - and this comes across in this remastering of old 78-rpm records. She shines in some of her arias, and the orchestra stays demurely in the background to allow her to do so. Hans Ducrue is a bit less convincing as Garibald, but he suffers from some plodding orchestral backup in some of his arias. All in all, this is a satisfying performance, for those who appreciate historical recordings.

The suite from Alcina is less successful. The density of the strings overcomes any hopes of restoring realistic sound from the 78s. There is nothing but strings in this suite (at least nothing else can be heard), and there is no depth, no texture. There is little reason to include this work, other than to fill up two discs.

The two arias from Julius Caesar, sung by soprano Marta Fuchs, are a bit too Wagnerian for my tastes, as is the aria from Radamisto, sung by tenor Georg A. Walter.

This set is interesting, from a historical point of view, and features an attractive soprano singing Rodelinda. The remainder of the set is filler, though it may interest those who collect historic recordings. It should be noted that the sound quality is excellent, though flat - the clean-up procedure certainly got rid of hisses and clicks, but took away a bit of the depth as well.


Kirk McElhearn

 


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