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Favourite German Opera Choruses
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Der Freischütz: Was gleicht wohl auf Erden (Huntsmen’s Chorus) Act III; Otto NICOLAI (1810-1849) Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor (The Merry Wives of Windsor): O süsser Mond (Moon Chorus) Act III; Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute): O Isis und Osiris (Chorus of the Priests) Act II; Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Fidelio: O welche Lust (Chorus of the Prisoners) Act I; Richard WAGNER (1813-1883) Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman): Summ und brumm (Spinning Chorus) Act II; Steuermann! Lass die Wacht! (Sailors’ Chorus) Act III; Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg): Wach auf, es nahet gen den Tag (Awake Chorus) – Ehrt eure deutschen Meister (final chorus) Act III; Tannhäuser: Freudig begrüssen wir (Entry of the Guests) Act II; Beglückt darf nun dich (Pilgrims’ Chorus) – Der Gnade heil’ (final chorus) Act III; Lohengrin: Treulich geführt (Bridal Chorus) Act III; Gesegnet soll sie schreiten (Procession to the Cathedral) Act II; Parsifal: Wein und Brot (Grail Chorus) Act I
Leipzig Radio Chorus, Dresdner Kapellknaben (Parsifal)
Staatskapelle Dresden/Silvio Varviso
Recorded in Lukaskirche, Dresden, Germany in November 1988
PHILIPS ELOQUENCE 464 645-2 [62:20]



Swiss-born Silvio Varviso has had positions in several important opera houses. He also recorded extensively, mainly during the sixties and seventies. To record collectors he is mostly known in Italian repertoire but he conducted at Bayreuth. There is a Philips recording of his Die Meistersinger and during his period as chief conductor at the Royal Opera in Stockholm he led several Wagner performances. I remember a great Lohengrin, which I recorded from the radio. It had Nicolai Gedda in his only Wagnerian role and in the early 70s I saw impressive performances from Varviso of his Der Ring des Nibelungen. So his German credentials are in order. Here he is at the helm of a noted Wagner orchestra and with the excellent Leipzig Radio Chorus, fresh-voiced and with the punch needed for some of the more pompous choruses. He conducts mostly lively, rhythmically alert and well nuanced versions of some eternal favourites. Most readers will undoubtedly have these choruses, probably in more than one version, but with excellent sound, very wide dynamics and infectious freshness this collection can be confidently recommended.

The wide dynamic range can sometimes be a problem for domestic listening. The Moon Chorus from Die lustigen Weiber starts so softly that one has to turn up the volume well above the average setting to hear anything at all of the magical orchestral introduction and in the Prisoners’ chorus from Fidelio it’s the same story. When the fortissimo outbreaks come one has to run for shelter. Whether it’s the recording or Varviso’s decisions that affect the chorus from Die Zauberflöte is hard to know: Mozart clearly distinguishes between p and f but here it’s rather pp versus ff. Anyway the result is thrilling and in a larger listening room than mine it would probably be less of a problem.

The big Wagner choruses are of course impressive, especially the Wach auf from the third act of Die Meistersinger, here linked with the final chorus from the opera to make it a suitable piece for concert purposes. This chorus has a special place in my heart, since it was the first opera chorus I had in my record collection, on an ancient Telefunken single, coupled with the Prisoners’ chorus from Nabucco. The Verdi chorus I knew from the radio but I was fascinated by the visionary greatness of the Wagner and played it over and over again on my quite simple equipment. Of course it never sounded anything like this Leipzig/Dresden version, where one can bask in the glorious sound produced in the justly famous acoustics of Lukaskirche.

The guests in the second act of Tannhäuser make their entrance in Wartburg with a spring in the step that makes one feel that there is also a troupe of dancers pirouetting around the noble guests. The Pilgrims’ chorus, on the other hand, approach in complete stillness, until the orchestra joins in, creating a sense of the joy they feel on their return from Rome.

The whole recital gave me a lot of pleasure and with some twiddling of the knobs I was able to tame the wide dynamics. Carl Rosman gives valuable information about the operas and the function of the choruses but we’ll have to do without the sung texts.

Göran Forsling


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