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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1782) [125'48]
Hannsgeorg Laubenthal (speaker) Pasha Selim; Erika Köth (soprano) Konstanze; Lisa Otto (soprano) Blonde; Rudolf Schock (tenor) Belmonte; Murray Dickie (tenor) Pedrillo; Kurt Böhme (bass) Osmin;
Chorus of the Vienna State Opera;
Wiener Philharmoniker/Georg Szell.
rec. Landestheater Salzburg, 7 August 1956. ADD. mono


This is a tremendous live account of Mozart's effervescent Entführung. Any preconceived ideas about Georg Szell should be jettisoned – he captures to perfection the buffo element of the opera and is infinitely flexible to his singers. The overture scampers away, full of life, its slower section light of texture. In fact, the orchestra throughout could be described positively as lean; there is little if any un-Mozartean heaviness here, merely a celebration of Mozart's genius.

His cast could hardly be bettered. Rudolf Schock is the first member we hear in Belmonte's 'Hier soll ich dich denn sehen'. He scales his voice perfectly for Mozart and for Szell's delicate accompaniment. His voice is lovely, rounded and focused but never thick. Later in the Act, his attack at the line, 'O wie ängstlich' in the aria, 'Konstanze, dich wiederzusehen' is spot-on.

Complementing him perfectly is Kurt Böhme's Osmin. Böhme, Dresden-born and at the time a member of the Bavarian State Opera, is pretty much the star of the show. The Osmin-Belmonte duet 'Wer ein Liebchen hat gefunden' is a constant delight not least because of the Wiener Philharmoniker's accompaniment. This despite a slight disagreement of ensemble around 3'18 into this track. Böhme's staccato is excellent; all Osmin's need preternaturally accurate staccato attack. Osmin's act 3 'triumph' aria ('Ha, wie will ich triumphieren') has a real feel of slapstick about it not to mention an amazing low D.

Erika Köth, another Bavarian State Opera singer, has a light voice with a fast vibrato as Konstanze. Her high register is simply superb, as she demonstrates beyond doubt in Act 1's 'Ach, ich liebte'. Szell once more is exemplary in his light accompaniment. Her 'biggest' aria, though, is surely the Act 2 'Martern aller Arten'. Köth is resolute, yet can float a pianissimo perfectly. Further, the four obbligato instrumental soloists (flute, oboe, violin, cello) match her in style. There could be no better way to end the first CD of the set.

In fact both female leads excel. As Blonde, Lisa Otto's big Act 2 aria ('Durch Zärtlichkeit') is as agile as one could wish, her voice negotiating the stratosphere with supreme ease. The ensuing duet with Osmin ('Ich gehe, doch rate ich dir') is light and fluffy; and what a low E flat from Böhme!

As Pedrillo, Murray Dickie exudes a sense of fun ('Frisch zu Kampfe') as he steels himself. His famous duet with Osmin (the hymn to alcohol, 'Vivat Bacchus') boasts an orchestra as light as snow. Both singers excel themselves. In Act 3, Dickie is challenged by Szell's fast tempo for the Serenade ('Im Mohrenland gefangen war') but acquits himself well.

The recording successfully conveys the atmosphere, although curiously in the finale of Act 1 voices appear backward in the balance. The Vienna State Opera Chorus is as vigorous and excellent as one would expect.

An invaluable addition to the Mozart discography.

Colin Clarke


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