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August ENNA (1859–1939)
Heisse Liebe (Hot Love) - Opera in two Acts (1900-01)
Johanna Stojkovic (soprano) – Arota, daughter of the estate administrator; Lothar Odinius (tenor) – Andreas, son of the duke; Alfred Kim (tenor) – Janos, Arota’s betrothed; Egbert Junghanns (baritone) – Matthäus, ducal estate administrator
NDR Chor and NDR Radiophilharmonie/Hermann Bäumer
rec. Grosser Sendesaal des NDR Landesfunkhauses, Hannover, Germany, 28 August-9 September and 18-19 September, 2006
Texts and English translations enclosed
CPO 7772502 [59:38 + 38:47]

 

Experience Classicsonline

Hexen (The Witch) and Den lille pige med svovlstikkerne (The Match Girl) after H.C. Andersen were two early successes by the Danish composer August Enna.

He was born on the island of Lolland to a family with Italian roots and learnt the shoemaker’s trade, as did his father and elder brother. Music was central in the family but it was not until he was eighteen that he was able to get some formal training, in violin and later in piano. He started composing with little theoretical background but still managed to attract Niels W. Gade’s attention with a Symphony in C minor and through further contact received a fellowship which enabled him to write Heksen, which within a few years was performed on forty stages throughout Europe. In total he composed fourteen operas, eleven operettas, five ballets and some incidental music. Stylistically he is rooted in Central European late- romantic ideals; Wagner is easily discernable but there is also a Nordic tone but hardly as prominent as to make him a national-romantic composer. He seems not to have been able to develop his tonal language along the new paths that were being trodden around the turn of the last century and his later works were not received with much enthusiasm, even though Carl Nielsen, when evaluating his score of Gloria Arsena, wrote: ‘As always from Enna’s hand, excellently instrumented, with vocal cantability, etc. Certainly no new values added in this opera, but I can most warmly recommend this Danish work for acceptance.’ This was in 1912. The work was premiered in 1917.

What Nielsen wrote could just as well be applied to Heisse Liebe. The opera was composed 1900-1901 but was in fact a thorough reworking of an earlier work. It was first performed in Weimar on 6 December 1904 but was not much of a success. The Royal Theatre in Copenhagen mounted the opera in 1912 under the title Ung Elskov. The libretto by P.A. Rosenberg is based on a novella by the Hungarian author Kálmán Mikszáth. The plot briefly:

Arota, daughter of estate administrator Matthäus, has fallen in love with Andreas, who turns out to be the son of the estate owner, who has recently passed away. Her love seems to be reciprocated. But Matthäus’ foster son Janos regards himself as betrothed to Arota and when she turns him down his jealousy turns into blind hate. In the second act Andreas talks Arota into following him and leave her father, against his consent. Janos follows them and kills them both, thus saving Arota from sin. “She stands before God as a pure maiden.”

The overture is well-wrought and melodious, Wagner’s voice permeating the score in slightly diluted form. The first act takes some time to build the tension. It is filled with beautiful, lyrical music but it is of uniform density and where Wagner often illuminates the score with chamber-like transparency, Enna tends to over-employ the French horns and create a rather compact sound. Arota’s opening aria could be said to have something of the simple folk-like melody of Nielsen’s Danish songs, which also play a central part in his opera Maskarade. Nielsen, although just a few years younger than Enna, is harmonically and rhythmically and in matters of orchestration, a man of the 20th century. Enna remains firmly rooted in the 19th century, and it should be remembered that the two operas are almost contemporaneous. As time goes by the drama gathers momentum and towards the end of the long encounter between Arota and Janos the temperature for the first time rises to something close to boiling point (CD1 tr. 5). Thereafter it seems that Enna found the ebb and flow that makes a piece of music drama live, and even though it is basically a lyric tale it grows. The peasant chorus (CD1 tr. 6) is jolly and idyllic and not far removed from Smetana (The Bartered Bride). There is some really efficient powerful choral writing later in this scene.

Act 2 opens with a dark, chromatic prelude, quite evocative and this is a signal that the intensity is to thicken. This act is much more tense and also filled with glowing passion, where the strings reveal Andreas’ feelings. To me it seems that Enna becomes much more involved, much more personal when he gives the strings free rein. There is a coherence and inevitability in this act that I wish had been there from the beginning. In the first act there are several highly attractive passages but it is the second act that convinces me of Enna’s capacity as a dramatist. I suspect that this is where I will most readily return. The duet between Arota and Andreas (CD2 tr. 4) can stand comparison with, say, Goldmark or Humperdinck. A real highlight is the following aria for Andreas (CD2 tr. 5), where und Küsse selig von meinem Lippen saugen! is as impassioned as anything in Germanic opera of the time. This also inspired the admirable Lothar Odinius to singing with a glow and beauty reminiscent of Fritz Wunderlich.

Odinius made a very good impression on a Schubert recital some while ago and here he confirms that in the field of lyric German tenors he is one of the top contenders. The other tenor, Korean born Alfred Kim, has a larger voice with heroic ring. He is much in demand on the continent in roles like Cavaradossi, Don José, Rodolfo and Faust, but his tone is not always ingratiating. Johanna Stojkovic is a good Arota and her lyric soprano has character, while Egbert Junghanns as Matthäus is expressive but rather weak.

The chorus and orchestra from the North German Radio are excellent, the ladies’ voices in particular. Hermann Bäumer sees to it that the climaxes, mainly in the second act, are given true impact.

There is a good essay on Enna and bios on the singers and conductor. There is both a synopsis and full texts, which are a necessity with a little known work.

Heisse Liebe is no lost masterpiece and I doubt that it will be performed very often but it is still good to have a recording of it. In particular the second act has a great deal to offer. I see in the booklet that the same company offers a recording of The Little Match Girl. Why not hope for The Witch?

Göran Forsling 

 




 


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