One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,928 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Buy through MusicWeb for £10.00/11.50 postage paid World-wide.
You may prefer to pay by Sterling cheque or Euro notes to avoid PayPal. Contact for details

Musicweb Purchase button

Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Ariadne auf Naxos (1911-16)
Prima Donna/Ariadne - Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano)
Zerbinetta - Rita Streich (soprano)
The Composer - Irmgard Seefried (soprano)
The Tenor/Bacchus -Rudolf Schock (tenor)
The Major Domo – Alfred Neugebauer (baritone)
The Music Teacher - Karl Dönch (baritone)
An Officer - Gerhard Unger (tenor)
A Dancing Master - Hughes Cuénod (tenor)
A Wig Maker - Erich Strauss (baritone)
A Lackey -Otakar Kraus (baritone)
Naiad - Lisa Otto (soprano)
Dryad - Grace Hoffman (mezzo soprano)
Echo - Anny Felbermayer (soprano)
Harlequin – Hermann Prey (baritone)
Scaramuccio – Gerhard Unger (tenor)
Truffaldino - Fritz Ollendorf (bass)
Brighella - Helmut Krebs (tenor)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Herbert von Karajan
Rec. at Kingsway Hall, London, July 1954
Capriccio Op. 85 (1942) - Closing Scene
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Ackermann
rec. Watford Town Hall, September 1953
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111033-34 [78:11 + 68:06]


Ariadne auf Naxos received its first studio incarnation in this famed set, organised by Walter Legge, conducted by Karajan and featuring a heady roster of singers supported, if that’s not too watery a word, by the characterful Philharmonia in top form. Almost everything that should have gone right during the sessions did so. Minor reservations remain precisely that – minor.

Seefried is the Composer, a role she’d assumed before, and proves ardent and authoritative. Right from Lieber Freund! she brings to bear all her accustomed naturalness and beauty of tone. Rita Streich’s Zerbinetta is every bit as good, though tends to be under-heralded in this role. Her technique is commandingly fluent, her tonal range wonderfully equalized, and her theatrical assumption faultless. Schwarzkopf can be self-consciously knowing; one realises this is an age-old complaint but her way with Meine Partner! does tend to invite the thought, or the criticism. Nevertheless despite the arch drawing attention to oneself, a sort of non-ensemble sliding into the limelight, hers is an unforgettably personalised reading.

Amidst the glitter of the other voices one finds the Dancing Master of Hughes Cuénod whose inimitably high French tenor does have a degree of strain that will not be to all tastes but is full of the richest élan and makes for the most brilliantine of cameos. In this company the Music Teacher of Karl Dönch sounds rather perfunctory and the Major Domo of Alfred Neugebauer gentlemanly but pensionable. Neugebauer made a live recording of this around the same time with Karl Böhm and sounds in considerably better voice there. A cast that includes Otakar Kraus as A Lackey can fairly be said to be batting well down the order. And when one adds that we have one of the best quartet of comedians on disc then the nature and breadth of the casting can be seen for the superior selection it was. The orchestra as noted plays with terrific impetus and subtlety. Dennis Brain’s solos are majestic but only one component. Listen to the cello solos in the Prologue and to the sense of chamber intimacy so winningly conveyed in Kindskopf! Merkt auf. Maybe here, though, and also in the very opening one can detect a certain weakness of Karajan’s – something of a lack of inner dynamism and a promotion of beautifully balanced sonority over theatrical energy. It’s a tendency that is reflected in the lower level of immediacy and backstage badinage than can be found in rival sets.

To bring up the second disc to sixty-eight minutes we also have Schwarzkopf in an almost contemporaneous recording, the closing scene from Capriccio. Once more Legge’s Philharmonia is on hand but this time Otto Ackermann is on the rostrum. Her agility and technical prowess are splendidly realised.

The notes are augmented by scene synopses; a libretto will have to be culled elsewhere or downloaded. The transfers are from relevant LPs and sound very well.

Jonathan Woolf


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

All Chandos reviews

All Hyperion reviews

All Foghorn reviews

All Troubadisc reviews

Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

All Lyrita Reviews


Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month


Donizetti - Le Convenienze ed Inconvenienze Teatrali

Chamber Symphonies 2 & 4

French Cello Concertos





Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.