Aureole etc.




Nimbus on-line




If it’s the Czech works you’re after, do not hesitate

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Some items
to consider

 


Enjoy the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra wherever you are. App available for iOS and Android

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage


Decca Phase 4 - 40CDs


Judith Bailey, George Lloyd


BAX Orchestral pieces


CASKEN Violin Concerto

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

REVIEW



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 

cover image

alternatively
CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Engelbert HUMPERDINCK (1854–1921)
Hänsel und Gretel (1890-93)
Elisabeth Grümmer (mezzo) - Hansel; Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano) - Gretel; Else Schürhoff (mezzo) - The Witch; Maria von Ilosvay (mezzo) - Mother; Josef Metternich (baritone) - Father; Anny Felbermayer (soprano) - Sandman, Dew Fairy; Loughton High School for Girls Choir; Bancroft School Choir
Philharmonia Orchestra/Herbert von Karajan
rec. Kingsway Hall, London 27, 29, 30 June 1953. Mono. ADD.
EMI CLASSICS 6407162 [63:37 + 44:43 + CD-ROM containing synopsis and libretto]

Experience Classicsonline

To describe Karajan's Hänsel und Gretel as the benchmark recording is almost to state the obvious. Its quality, both in terms of the performance and the recording, more than justify that status, and its perennial place in the catalogue may well explain why so few competitors have appeared in the intervening almost sixty years.

Looking at the organisations and personalities that were involved in the original recording, it is hardly surprising that something of enduring pleasure was created. You've got Schwarzkopf at the height of her powers and the Philharmonia in a period when they were easily London's hottest orchestra. Karajan's legacy of operatic recordings is not unblemished, but there is no doubt that the best of it was the result of collaborations with Walter Legge and the Philharmonia.

Like their other great triumph, the 1956 Rosenkavalier, this Hänsel und Gretel seems to have been the result of some very relaxed recording sessions. Much of these two operas was recorded in single takes, and there is a spontaneity here that live recordings today so often try, and so often fail, to emulate. Karajan had never conducted the Humperdinck before, and there is an almost childlike curiosity about the way he teases details out of the orchestral textures.

Mike Ashman, in his fascinating but brief liner-notes, opines that Karajan goes for a sound that is more Straussian than Wagnerian. He asserts that the musical focus is always on soloists in the orchestra, and on unmediated song, as opposed to aria, presentation from the singers. That's very true, but the balance between simplicity and sophistication in the singing of every major role is complex and fascinating. For example, Elisabeth Grümmer and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, as Hansel and Gretel respectively. Each sings with child-like exuberance, and they bring endearing enthusiasm to the bird-calls and folk-songs. There is plenty of vibrato in both voices, and there is never any suggestion that either is trying to sound child-like. Else Schürhoff is great as the witch, but also very tasteful. It's a role you could ham up much more if you were going for the pantomime angle, although I'm not sure Karajan would have approved.

Much has been made over the years of the high quality of the recorded sound. If you didn't know, you would be unlikely to guess that the recording was made in 1953 … and in mono. The singers are extremely well served by the engineers, as are most of the orchestral soloists. The tuttis often seem a little distant and muted, but there is a surprising clarity to all the orchestral textures. And what fabulous orchestral playing! There is real character to all of the wind and brass solos, and the ensemble in the strings is first rate.

This reissue is not the only one on the market, nor is it the cheapest. EMI no longer have exclusive rights to the recording, meaning that anybody with access to the masters can issue it. There is a very reasonably priced version on Naxos (review review), who have their own re-mastering team, so you can expect some slight differences in audio presentation. EMI, for their part, have come up with an interesting extra, the libretto as a pdf on a supplementary CD. Whether or not that will appease the many opera fans who regularly bemoan the lack of librettos in budget opera sets I can't say, but it is a nice touch. If you are already in front of a computer, finding the libretto on the internet is hardly difficult. Also, given the unused space on the CD, there would surely be room here to include the score as a pdf, and at no further expense considering that it too is out of copyright.

A modern makeover, then, for an old favourite. EMI are at something of a turning point in their history just now, and if reissues like this can help to keep the company afloat, then they are certainly to be welcomed. The record industry has changed beyond all recognition since 1953, making the continual appearance of this recording in the catalogues one of its few enduring certainties. No doubt, EMI will continue to reissue it in various forms for as long as the company exists. If this did end up being their last version of it, then they've certainly done the recording justice with some handsome packaging. There is no doubt that it will continue to appear again and again as the years go by. The only question is, how long will the red square logo continue to appear in the top right-hand corner?

Gavin Dixon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools






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.