Werner EGK (1901-1983)
Die Zaubergeige (The Magic Fiddle) highlights (1935) [50:57]
La Tentation de Saint Antoine (Temptation of St Anthony) (1945) [23:12]
Kaspar - Marcel Cordes (baritone); Gretl - Erika Köth (soprano); Ninabella - Elisabeth Lindermeier (soprano); Amandus - Richard Holm (tenor); Guldensack - Max Proebstl (bass); Cuperius - Gottlob Frick (bass); Fangauf - Karl Ostertag (tenor); Schnapper - Josef Knapp (baritone); Richter - Paul Kuen (tenor); Lakaien - Emil Graf/Walter Bracht (baritone)
Bavarian State Chorus and Orchestra/Werner Egk (Die Zaubergeige)
Bernard Lefort (baritone); Georges Ales, Pierre Doukan (violins); Pierre Ladhuite (viola); Roger Albin (cello)/Louis de Froment (La tentation)
rec. Herkulessaal, Munich, 26 September 1954 (Zaubergeige); first issued 1956 (La Tentation). mono. ADD
These recordings derive from LP stock: DG LPE19062 and L'Oiseau-Lyre OL 50134, 1956.
no text or translations included but booklet has full synopses
detailed track-list at end of review

Egk’s music is resourceful and inventive. On the evidence of these two scores it is tonal and accessible if you enjoy your Richard Strauss or Maurice Ravel perhaps with a light Iberian or Stravinskian dusting.
We are not exactly overwhelmed with the quantity of Egk CDs. That’s at first blush. In fact moderate persistence among the pages of the Amazon Marketplace yields quite a list. Close to home we start with a Brilliant Classics CD of the Janet Baker DG version of the Tentation. Add to this a Signum CD: not the Signum we know now but a German label based in Heidelberg. Their 1996 CD includes Egk’s Kleine Symphonie (1926), the Tango from Peer Gynt (1938), the Triptych from the ballet Joan von Zarissa (1940), the Französische Suite (after Rameau) (1949) and the Zaubergeige overture. The Staatsorchester Frankfurt (Oder) is conducted by Nikos Athinaos. If you can find it that Signum CD (SIG X86-00) is the place to go after this engaging Magdalen disc.
Die Zaubergeige is not free from Hispanic influence but then neither is one of his most controversial scores, the ballet Abraxas. Fricsay recorded a little suite from the ballet in 1951 for RIAS. It’s on Symposium 1258. Abraxas (1948) can be heard in full on Oehms OC574 with the Landeskapelle Eisenach conducted by Mark Mast. That dates from 2005.
Egk’s operas are more than respectably represented on the almost self-effacing Orfeo label: Peer Gynt c. Heinz Wallberg on C005822H; Columbus c. Werner Egk C549012I; Die Verlobung in San Domingo c. Werner Egk C343932I; Furchtlosigkeit und Wohlwollen (Fearlessness and Goodness) c. Istvan Kertesz C510011B and Irish Legend c. George Szell C564012I . These are supplemented by Der Revisor on Oehms OC912 in Augsburg conducted by Hans Norbert Bihlmaier.
Die Zaubergeige is a comic opera in three acts and was premiered on 22 May 1935 in Frankfurt am Main. Ferdinand Leitner took it up some two decades later in a revised version in Stuttgart’s Württembergische Staatstheater, Staatsoper. The full work runs to about 110:00 so we are hearing about half of the music. It’s light of heart - almost French.

Die Zaubergeige combines frou-frou jollity with a mastery of diaphanous and mobile textures. The character of the piece as represented by these extracts is a sort of German equivalent of Holst’s fun opera The Perfect Fool with occasional raids from Stravinsky’s Easter Fair from Petrushka. It’s not short on Hispanic high spirits, relying at times on an eruptive blend of Bolero and Rosenkavalier with the odd dash of Falla’s Tricorne. The casting is from elite strength and the notes give us better than decent career summaries for each artist. As expected, the singing is full of character and painted large. Keeping track of the fairy-tale storyline is easy enough given the thorough tracking and booklet synopsis. Lindermeier as Ninabella is as clear as a bell in the songbird love-play of Meinem schicksal. Marcel Cordes will have you asking why we did not have more of him when you hearDahin sind all plagen - a real sanguine, quick-pulse Spanish serenade. I can see Dahin sind all plagen making a coup on the next celebrity tenor compilation. It would have suited Carreras in his prime. Cordes can do the patter-song routines as well. In the Duet of Ninabella and Kaspar (14) silver motes fall enchantedly around the couple in slow motion. Here was a composer well able to step up to the plate established by Rosenkavalier and dust the result with Iberian atmosphere. This is a phantasmagorical opera and well worth getting to hear. The only down-side is that wiry edge to the violins given the recording’s half century vintage; I only really noticed this in the overture. The mono sound is no problem.
By contrast La Tentation has a decidedly Gallic brogue which is probably accentuated by Bernard Lefort’s Poulencian and sweetly light baritone. These thirteen songs have a folksy feel and at times take us towards Canteloube and the Auvergne. They are not at all what you might have expected. There is a dreaminess here by comparison with the G&S frivolity of Die Zaubergeige. Sur un sofa glimmers in magically dusky half lights. The string quartet accompaniment is endlessly inventive: boisterous, rapturous, buzzing and delicate.
Magdalen’s simple yet lissom design values in the booklet and in the card insert stand out admirably in today’s marketplace.
If you are looking to challenge your preconceptions and widen your knowledge of the deep treasure chest of 20th century music then this disc is for you.
Rob Barnett 

If you are looking to challenge your preconceptions and widen your knowledge of the deep treasure chest of 20th century music then this disc is for you.

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