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Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Euryanthe (1823)
Hertha Wilfert – Euryanthe
Howard Vandenburg – Adolar
Inge Borkh – Eglantine
Karl Kamann – Lysiart
Alaxander Welitsch – King Ludwig VI
Hanny Steffek – Bertha
Choir and Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Carlo Maria Giulini
Recorded live in Florence, 8 May 1954

It’s probably best not to get your hopes up. The name to inspire is Giulini’s of course and with Inge Borkh in the cast we can be assured of some fireworks. But before you do start reaching for your wallet be aware of some very significant technical and executant flaws in the performance. The sound, for a start. It’s pretty poor for its time, boxy and unattractive. Some bizarre orchestral perspectives are audible, with vastly over-prominent percussion, and there’s a lot of enshrined stage shuffling of a heavy-booted kind. Then there’s the orchestra and boy, what a band they were. It’s true that they improve as things develop but they could hardly get much worse – and the overture shows them in all their glory; ropey strings, unblended and unbalanced, sloppy winds, and a general state of mild panic throughout. Giulini can’t stem the Canute-like onrush, though the audience respond as if Italy had just won the World Cup. Amazing.

The chorus is indistinct in Dem Frieden Heil – which could be an advantage as they’re not impressive – so the weight of interest falls heavily on some of the principal singers. Borkh is the star; penetrating, powerful, commanding and truly characterful in So Einsam bagend in Act I, and revealing exemplary stagecraft in Act III’s Ich kann nicht weiter. The pity is that she’s not present more often, though we do have Hertha Wilfert as Euryanthe. Wilfert has a strong presence and a powerful voice though it’s inclined to be a bit plummy and weak in the middle and not always firmly centred – as Glöcklein in Tale shows. In her more strenuous moments she can also be a touch squally (Act III – Lasst mich hier). As Adolar Howard Vandenburg is rather uneven and blustery but leaves a reasonably strong impression; his voice isn’t opulent but it’s more than serviceable and he seizes his chances in Unter blüh and in Wehen mir (Act II) well enough. Karl Kamann as Lysiart has a certain earthy vigour about him and I enjoyed his engaging presence.

But all told this is a disappointment. The cast is not a particular weakness but the orchestra is and Giulini’s inability to control its waywardness is symptomatic. The recording quality is a final nail in the coffin. No notes or information, as usual with this company, so this is one for Giulini completists only.

Jonathan Woolf




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