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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Die Freunde von Salamanka
(1815) [74:27]
Olivia – Edith Mathis (soprano)
Eusebia – Christine Weidinger (soprano)
Laura – Carol Wyatt (mezzo)
Alonso – Thomas Moser (tenor)
Diego – Eberhard Büchner (tenor)
Tormes – Norbert Orth (baritone)
Fidelio – Hermann Prey (baritone)
The Alcade – Robert Holl (bass)
Manuel/Xilo – Kurt Rydl (bass)
Austrian Radio Chorus and Symphony Orchestra/Theodor Guschlbauer
rec. live, 1978 Hohenems Schubertiade. ADD
BRILLIANT OPERA COLLECTION 93931 [74:27]
Experience Classicsonline


This piece of froth won’t do Schubert’s good name any harm, but nor will it improve his reputation as a dramatic composer.  Like nearly all of Schubert’s stage works
Die Freunde von Salamanka
was never performed during his lifetime. The spoken dialogue that connects the numbers has been lost so you have to take it as a series of set-pieces rather than a coherent whole.  While there are some fun moments and good tunes it doesn’t really hold together.  The story, what there is of it, concerns three men and three women who come together through various twists and turns, overcoming the obstacles placed in their way by authority and social expectations.  The tunes are all very fine, but Schubert doesn’t seem to be sure about what he’s writing.  The form is that of a Singspiel, but the overture sets up a pretty heavy, overbearing tone that doesn’t really fit the flavour of the work, though perhaps that’s due to the rather blockish conducting of Theodor Guschlauber.  The best numbers are not the love arias, but the trios for the groups of friends.  The three men sing a rousing trio in their first scene, while the ladies have a lovely ensemble in their first appearance, Lebensmut und frische Kühlung, for me the work’s highlight. After this the rest of the work is diverting enough, but it isn’t a patch on Schubert’s lieder, nor on his instrumental works.  The cast assembled by this recording (originally on DG) is as attractive as one could hope for, including a young Thomas Moser who sings surprisingly sweetly.  Hermann Prey is a very fine Fidelio, while Edith Mathis has crystalline purity as Olivia, so the two leads are in safe hands.  The comprimario bass roles are effectively and distinctively taken by Robert Holl and Kurt Rydl, but Carol Wyatt’s Laura is unpleasantly nasal.  Furthermore the sound on this live recording is unpleasantly close and there is little sense of spontaneity.  At the moment this is the only recording of this work available. I can understand how it might sparkle more in the hands of a period ensemble and conductor, but for now this disc’s appeal is really more about curiosity value and it’s probably only for completists.  That said, it’s extremely cheap in this issue so you can afford to explore if you’re tempted.

Simon Thompson
 


 


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