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Gundula Janowitz in Concert
George Frederic HANDEL (1685-1759)
Giulio Cesare: Overture [5:00]; Da tempeste il legno infranto [8:08]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Don Giovanni: Crudele?... Non mi dir [7:23]
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Der Freischütz: Wie nahte mir der Schlummer… Leise, leise [8:18]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
I Vespri Siciliani: Overture [8:27]
Attila: Santo di Patria… Allor che i forti [6:37]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Tosca: Vissi d’arte [3:30]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Tannhauser: Dich, teure halle [6:14]
Gundula Janowitz (soprano)
Graz Philharmonic Orchestra/Berislav Klobucar
rec. live in concert, Stefaniesaal, Graz, 1970
Region Code 0, Aspect Ration 4:3, Mono only
VAI 4458 [54:00] 


Experience Classicsonline

This gala evening, presumably recorded for Austrian Television, captures Janowitz towards the end of her prime. It’s not particularly attractive or engaging, though, and its main value is historical.

Janowitz studied at the Graz Conservatory - about the only useful thing the notes tell us - and this concert is meant to represent some sort of homecoming. There isn’t much sense of atmosphere, though, something not helped by the grainy picture, inconsistent editing and mono sound. It’s clearly an old-fashioned gala: the playing of the two Handel numbers would sound very out of place today using, as they do, a big string band and pretty slow tempi, especially for the overture. When Janowitz appears she has her characteristic big hair and wears what looks like a sparkly dressing-gown. Her facial expression never changes: it has a slightly pained, distant look whatever she is singing. None of this would matter much were her singing extraordinary, but in most cases it’s pretty ordinary too. Her smooth, bright soprano sounds the same for every character. The Handel aria sounds good in the slower passages, but the bright coloratura goes too quickly for her to keep up with, something not helped by the fact that she opens her mouth only very slightly for the whole duration of the aria! The same pale coloratura is there for the Verdi aria, while this and Vissi d’arte suffer from her almost total lack of Italianate quality. She seems more comfortable in the Mozart, where she finds the quicker passages less challenging. She is also secure in the aria from Tannhäuser, though she is too matronly to convince as the excitable young Elizabeth. Her finest moment is the aria from Freischütz, her home territory and the only one of these roles that she recorded complete (barring a live Don Giovanni on Opera d’Oro). Here the gently purity of her voice is perfectly matched to Agathe’s radiant anticipation, and she copes ably with the glowing excitement of the end of the aria. 

On the whole, then, this is interesting as a taster of roles that Janowitz never recorded complete, but it is of little more than historical value and it isn’t a collection I’ll be returning to in a hurry.

Simon Thompson


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