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Eugen D'ALBERT (1864-1932)
Tiefland (1903)
Bernd Weikl (tenor) – Sebastiano
Kurt Moll (bass) – Tommaso
Bodo Brinkmann (bass) – Moruccio
Eva Marton (soprano) – Marta
René Kollo (tenor) – Pedro
Maria Janina Hake (soprano) – Pepa
Angela Freeney (soprano) – Antonia
Carmen Anhorn (mezzo soprano) – Rosalia
Norbert Orth (bass) – Nando
Choir of Bavarian Radio and Munich Radio Symphony Orchestra/Marek Janowski
Recorded Munich, February 1983
ARTS 2CD 47501-2 [65.49 + 69.04]


Tiefland is one of those operas more read about than heard. It defies easy category though post-Wagnerian quasi-verismo may well do as shorthand. Originally cast in three movements and trimmed to two following the Prague premiere in 1903 (the revision of 1905 was first performed in Magdeburg) it’s held a tentative place in the German repertoire in the century since its composition. It’s been an infrequent visitor to turntable and disc. Rudolf Moralt and his Viennese forces recorded it for Philips back in 1957 with a fine cast headed by Gré Brouwenstijn, Paul Schöffler, Eberhard Waechter and Hans Hopf but that was cut. I’ve not been able to hear it for comparison purposes but it is certainly less complete than this Arts and I’m assuming that the dialogue took the brunt of the losses. The difference is some twenty minutes [Philips CD 434 781 2PM2]. [see also Walhall recording]

Set in Spain and embedding Spanish rhythms as well as Viennese ones this splendidly upholstered score owes much, it’s true, to Wagner and not a little to Richard Strauss. From the mournful mountain top descending clarinet call the playing out of passion – love, duplicity, murder – is set between the mountain and the village. There are numerous highlights, from Moll’s oak cask voice and the casting of Kollo as Pedro, the hero peasant through Weikl’s villainous turn as the landowner Sebastiano. As the heroine Eva Marton is inclined to be just a shade shrill though her theatrical powers of projection are strong as ever. D’Albert fuses Wagnerian span with moments of Mendelssohnian and Grieg-like lightness – try the Midsummer Night’s Dream meets Peer Gynt passage of the fourth scene of the Prologue (beginning Hast du’s gehört?) Wagner is the most adamantine influence at such moments as Act I Scene IV – Sein bin ich, sein! – and the verismo aspect is compelling in the chorus’s cry in Scene VI from the same Act – maybe Puccini as an influence in the orchestral warmth of Scene IX (Er will kein Stutzer sein).

There are longeurs and moments of relative crudity – I happen to find Act II Scene III unsuccessful – but the Iberian melancholy so splendidly evoked throughout is beguiling. You should certainly hear the slow Spanish dance that courses through Das Essen ist da (Scene VI). There are in fact many things to savour, from love duets to bigger ensemble numbers; plenty of local colour and a high level of orchestration. Janowski enjoys the more spun-line episodes I suspect rather more than the more hectic moments of melodrama but if one could wish him to hurry the action along he certainly provides rich incidental pickings along the way. Much of the orchestration is a delight.

Good radio broadcast sound is augmented by a full booklet but non-polyglots should note that the libretto is in German only. As the man almost said - Brush up your Goethe.

Jonathan Woolf

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