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

Werner Egk was born in Bavaria and studied with Carl Orff. His greatest success was the comic opera Die Zaubergeige (The Magic Fiddle) based on a marionette play by Graf Franz von Pocci. It was first performed in 1935 in Frankfurt and revised in 1953-4, just before this recording was made. Although I understand that it retains a degree of popularity in Germany opportunities to see it elsewhere are very few. The same applies even more to his many other operas. It could be that he is still regarded as being too popular with the Nazis, although the booklet note here rightly explains that in his 1937 opera Peer Gynt there is much that parodies the Nazis. Perhaps it was because of this that at one of the first British performances of the later Der Revisor (The Government Inspector) at the old Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London I remember the orchestra and cast easily outnumbering the very small audience. So I am delighted that once again we are in Magdalen’s debt with an opportunity to get to know not only Die Zaubergeige but also the song cycle La Tentation de Saint Antoine.
The plot of Die Zaubergeige concerns Kaspar, a farmhand who seeks a better life. He gives his last coins to the spirit King Cuperus when he is disguised as a beggar. Kaspar’s reward is a magic violin whose enchantment only works when the player has renounced love. In the course of many complicated adventures Kaspar becomes rich but is later condemned to death. Finally after escaping from this he is offered the violin again but decides to go back to his old life and his old love.
I do not know how representative the extracts recorded here are of the entire work but they are varied, ranging from parody and populist folksy dance tunes to music more akin to that of Weill and Orff. With the aid of the lengthy synopsis included here I followed and greatly enjoyed what I heard. The cast includes many of the best known German singers of the immediate post-war period, all giving what appear to be admirably well characterised performances. With the composer conducting and a good and well balanced recording for its age this is a very welcome revival.
Just as welcome but wholly different in style is the later song-cycle, La Tentation de Saint Antoine (The temptation of St Anthony) to verses by Michel-Jean Sedaine, an eighteenth century Parisian writer. Like the somewhat earlier English ballad operas the latter were set to popular tunes of the day, and Egk makes use of many of these. The booklet includes a free translation of the thirteen short songs. Although the cycle was published as being for contralto it is performed here by the very typically French baritone Bernard Lefort in what sounds like a very stylish manner. It is varied, entertaining and not a moment too long.
It would probably be too much to hope that the reissue of these recordings might lead to more performances and recordings which would enable a real reconsideration of Egk’s music, but it certainly provides a good start to that process.
The music and the performances are well worth exploration and this inexpensive but well filled disc can be given a very strong welcome.
John Sheppard 

Detailed Tracklist 
Die Zaubergeige Highlights 50.57

1. Overture 5.38
2. Act 1: O Galgen! 2.14
3. Ach, Wie Ich Hunger Habe 4.20
4. Orchestral Interlude 0.49
5. 200 Dukaten Bei Diesem Falsche Geschaft 2.08
6. Wenn Der Vogel Singt 5.07
7. Wo Bin Ich? 2.00
8. Act 2: Amandus and Gretl Scene: Sie Liebt Mich 3.09
9. Ninabella’s Aria: Meinem Schicksal 4.24
10. Dahin Sind Alle Plagen 2.23
11. Gretl’s Arioso: Mein Elend Auszudrucken 1.53
12. Jetzt Will Ich Saufen 2.28
13. Act 3. Spagniola 2.35
14. Duet Ninabella/Kaspar/Quartet: Ich Brauche Euch 5.10
15. Finale I: Seine Stunde Hat Geschlagen 1.39
16. Final Scene II: Uns Nutzt Nicht Mehr 4.43
La Tentation De Saint Antoine 23.12
Original Song Titles in Brackets
17. Ciel! L’univers (Plus inconstant que L’onde et le nuage) 1.39
18. C’etait Ainsi (Du Haut En Bas) 1.04
19. On Vit Sortir (Des Folies D’Espagne ) 2.17
20. On Vit Des Demons (Ture, Lure, Lure, Et Flon, Flon Flon) 1.13 
21. Quelques-uns Prirent Le Cochon (La Faridondaine) 1.20
22. Sur un Sofa une Diablesse en Falbala (Dans un Detour) 3.52
23. Ronflant Comme un Cochon (Au Fond De Mon Caveau) 0.55
24. Courez Vite, Prenez Le Patron (La Pierre - Fitoise, Contredanse) 1.28
25. Le Saint, Craignant De Pecher (Quand la Mer Rouge Apparut) 1.28
26. Pique Dans ce Bacchanal (Nous Autres Bon Villageois) 2.45
27. Tel Qu’un Voleur (Tel Qu-un Voleur) 2.47
28. Ah, Mon Dieu! Que Le J’Echappe Belle 0.52
(Ah! Maman, Que Je L’Echappe Belle)
29. Le Demon, Quoi Qu’il Passe Pour Fin (Le Demon Malicieux et Fin) 1.27

Well worth exploration. This inexpensive but well filled disc merits a very strong welcome.

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