Hearing this old recording of Die verkaufte Braut, which
is the German title, was a true nostalgia trip. It was my first
recording of this opera, bought from the Concert Hall Record Club
back in the mid-1960s. I haven’t played the LPs for many a moon
but the performance was largely as I remembered it, warts and
all. When I bought the Supraphon set with Gabriela
Beňačková and Peter Dvorsky more than 25 years ago
it immediately superseded the old one on several counts: it was
more complete, the sound quality was immensely better, by and
large the singing was superior and it was sung in the original
Czech, while the Frankfurt set is in German. In between I had
also acquired a highlights LP, also in German, with Pilar Lorengar,
Fritz Wunderlich and Gottlob Frick, conducted by Rudolf Kempe.
That recording was reissued not long ago and it is also preferable
this doesn’t imply that the Concert Hall recording is without
merit. It is true that the sound is dated, mono only and rather
boxy, but it is acceptably clear and detailed, at least when
it comes to instrumental solos and individual voices. Orchestral
tuttis tend to be congested but dynamics are rather wide and
the double basses in the overture are impressive. The orchestra
emerges as a first class band and there is vitality and rhythmic
élan there as well as in the other well known orchestral numbers.
Walter Goehr, father to composer Alexander Goehr, was one of
the house conductors of Concert Hall in the 1950s – he died
far too young in 1960. I acquired quite a number of his recordings,
spanning most epochs and styles in music history. Among other
things he recorded Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea
with fine feeling for period authenticity. His contribution
to the sense of Czech atmosphere in this recording is important
– in spite of the German text. The choral forces are also more
than acceptable, though there are some sprawling sopranos. The
verve of the opening chorus, one of the finest things in this
delectable score, is infectious.
solo singing is variable. The undoubted star is Heinz Rehfuss
as the marriage-broker Kezal. Best known perhaps as a superb
oratorio bass and highly accomplished Lieder singer, he was
the possessor of one of the finest voices of his time, more
baritone than bass actually. He was also a lively and expressive
actor. Compared to Gottlob Frick he is more civilized, less
burlesque, has little of the pitch-black quality and the rock-steady
low notes, but he sings magnificently even so. A bel canto Kezal!
Trötschel was one of the finest German sopranos of the same
period, not least in the Mozart and Richard Strauss repertoire.
She doesn’t seem to have been in best voice though during this
recording. Her tone is a little lacklustre and there is a tendency
to shrillness on top notes. But she is a sensitive artist and
truly touching in her sad solo in Act III Wie fremd und todt
ist Alles umher (CD 2 tr. 12). Pilar Lorengar on the Kempe
set has a quick vibrato that may not be to everybody’s taste
but she is fresher and more charming than on any other recording
I know. Kurt Wolinski as Hans is a lively actor but vocally
rather provincial and compared to the superb Fritz Wunderlich
he is second-rate. Willy Müller’s harsh and penetrating tones
are far from beautiful but he draws a fine portrait of Wenzel.
Among the minor roles Karl Kümmel’s Kruschina and Helga Rosenthal’s
Esmeralda are good but even more Carl Ebert’s Springer stands
out. I wonder if this can have been the legendary director,
known not least from Glyndebourne. He was after all a splendid
actor and Springer is primarily a spoken part. Listen to him
at the beginning of Act III (CD 2 tr. 3). He sounds rather elderly
and the Carl Ebert was 67 in 1954. Does anyone know?
of my great disappointments when I bought this recording was
that the most beautiful music in the opera, the consorted second
part of Hans’ and Marie’s first act duet was cut. Only some
orchestral fragments remained. Since the text was printed in
the libretto I had hoped that it had been reinstated for this
issue but it hadn’t.
are three bonus tracks after the opera on CD 2, two duets from
Dvořák’s Der Jakobiner and one from Janáček’s
Katja Kabanova. In the Dvořák pieces – lovely music
as is so much in this fairly unknown opera – Elfriede Trötschel
is partnered by the fine tenor Lorenz Fehenberger. He is probably
best known to opera collectors for his Lohengrin in the Deutsche
Grammophon recording from 1953. He is a sensitive singer with
a honeyed delivery in pianissimo. The end of the second duet
is ravishing. Trötschel is in far better voice here and really
shows why she was held in such high esteem by aficionados. In
the Janáček scene her tone is slightly harder but there
still a fine bloom to her voice. Sieglinde Großmann is an acceptable
Varvara. The sound is quite good for its age.
wanting an excellent Bartered Bride in German are advised
to search out the Kempe set, which is available at budget price.
The present set is worth hearing for Goehr’s inspired conducting
and Heinz Rehfuss’s reading of the marriage-broker’s role. The
bonus tracks are also valuable.