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Mir ist die Ehre widerfahren
Electrola-Querschnitte - Original Opera Highlights
rec. 1952-73
EMI CLASSICS 9283242 [7 CDs: 398:39]

Recently Electrola issued a similar box with historical material from the company’s back-catalogue with highlights from French operas - but sung in German, which was the norm in those days. There was a need for recordings - also complete operas - in the vernacular in German and Austria. I have to admit that I am not always fond of the hard German consonants and Ach-Laut in French music. Here though there are no such problems, Orpheus and Euridike, the obvious exception. Gluck was born in Germany and grew up there and it was not until he was in his mid-twenties that he went to Italy to study.
 
Even though the sound quality is variable - quite a lot of the recordings are from early- and mid-1950s and in mono - there is a lot to enjoy here, especially since some of the best German or German-based singers of the period take part.
 
Mozart’s juvenile Bastien und Bastienne was composed during summer 1768 when he was only 12, and it is charming rather than masterly. Considering the composer’s age it seems fit that the three roles are taken by three singers roughly his age, three members of Die Wiener Sängerknaben. Bastienne is very good, has a divine voice and is a very good speaker too. Bastien is weaker, sounds more childish but has an agreeable voice even so. He is also a lively speaker. The sorcerer Colas, which is a role for a juicy bass - on another Bastien from Electrola it is sung by Kurt Moll - has, suitably enough, a more robust voice, strong, dynamic but in his case the spoken dialogue is rather stilted. As a bonus we get five Mozart overtures, well played by the Philharmonia under Rafael Kubelik but the mono recording from 1952 is a shade aggressive.
 
Gluck’s Orpheus und Euridike is in good stereo sound from 1962. The German texts jar a bit but one gets used to it. Hearing a baritone as Orpheus is also a bit weird - not to mention anachronistic. Hermann Prey sings beautifully, however, and as always he is expressive … sometimes a bit too much. More restraint wouldn’t have come amiss. Ach, ich habe sie verloren, better known as Che farò senza Euridice, is well sung. Erika Köth is a good Amor, singing charmingly with her characteristic quick vibrato. Pilar Lorengar is a warm Euridike. The choral music, so important in this opera, is extremely well sung by RIAS Kammerchor under their legendary director Günter Arndt.
 
Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor brims with lovely music and these excerpts, in very acceptable mono sound, give a fair picture of its qualities. The overture, to begin with, is absolutely enchanting and Wilhelm Schüchter, who is the conductor on many of the recordings in this box, makes it stand out for the masterpiece it is. The beautiful chorus O süsser Mond that concludes the excerpts (tr. 7) is also excellently done. In between we get admirable readings of some of the finest vocal numbers. Erika Köth, fairly early in her career, is a glittering Frau Fluth, Falstaff is superbly sung by the great Gottlob Frick and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is a characterful Herr Fluth. Both these gentlemen knew how to make the most of the words. Horst Wilhelm is a middling Fenton.
 
The bonus tracks cover almost half the playing time of the disc and are very valuable. The somewhat underrated Otto Ackermann leads the Gürzenich Orchestra from Cologne in two Weber overtures, of which the Abu Hassan is a little gem. Excellent mono sound. Next we are treated to the most beautiful German bass voice of his generation, Kurt Moll, in four arias, recorded in the 1970s. He isn’t as ‘black’ as Frick in Falstaff’s aria (tr. 12) but just as impressive, and few have sung Gremin’s aria from Eugene Onegin so beautifully.
 
CD 4 is a hotchpotch of excerpts from three little known operas. The longest is a potpourri from Lortzing’s Der Waffenschmied. I think this was issued on a 10-inch LP back in 1953. Good singers here: the expressive Gerhard Unger, a pert Lisa Otto as Marie, the imposing Gottlob Frick in the best known number, Auch ich war ein Jüngling mit lockigem Haar and a very young Hermann Prey as Count Liebenau - rather recessed in fact. Four years later he is much more assured in a couple of arias from Das Nachtlager in Granada, not least in the long aria from the second act (tr. 11) including a violin solo, excellently played by Karl Kayser. From the same year, 1957, comes a handful of excerpts from Der Trompeter von Säckingen, where he is partnered by Karl Christian Kohn and Helga Hildebrand - and the excellent trumpet player Otto Fröhlich.
 
Wilhelm Kienzl’s Der Evangelimann was premiered in 1895 and rapidly conquered German and Austrian stages. On his 70th birthday, 17 January 1927, Kienzl himself conducted the opera at the Vienna State Opera with Lotte Lehmann and Richard Tauber in the leading roles. Today it is rarely seen, but there exist at least two complete recordings. One CD version on EMI Classics has Siegfried Jerusalem in the title role and there’s also a DVD from the Volksoper in Vienna. The highlights disc in this box is also very attractive with a lot of good music. The a cappella Salve regina is beautiful. Overall there is a lot of choral music here. Anneliese Rothenberger also has some beautiful things to sing and Marga Höffgen sings well in the next best known number, O schöne Jugendtage. That said, the real hit is Mathias’s Selig sind, die Verfolgung leiden, magnificently performed by Nicolai Gedda. There is dramatic power in much of the music here and with singers like Benno Kusche and Franz Crass in some of the other roles the quality of the performance is high. Veteran Robert Heger, almost 80 when the recording was made, paces the music admirably.
 
Hänsel und Gretel is a lovely opera and the only drawback with the highlights on CD 6 is that there wasn’t room for more music. Five vocal numbers only, but they are eminently well sung. Both children are splendid and Helga Hildebrand’s Sandmännchen is a delight to hear. The orchestral suite, arranged by Rudolf Kempe, actually encompasses more music than the vocal excerpts and the RPO play well. The sound is first class.
 
Three great sopranos adorn Der Rosenkavalier disc. It is a pity that Electrola didn’t record the opera complete however this no doubt happened because Karajan’s recording an enduring classic was already planned. Leonie Rysanek, not yet 30, is very good as Die Feldmarschallin and Erika Köth is a lovely Sophie. With Elisabeth Grümmer as Octavian the trio could hardly be bettered. Add to this Josef Traxel’s excellent Italian singer and Gustav Neidlinger’s amusing Ochs, and you are in for a real treat. The mono sound is good.
 
Apart from the variable recorded sound and the lack of any texts and translations or other information about the music this is a highly desirable box for lovers of German opera.
 
Göran Forsling 

Previous review: Jonathan Woolf  
 
Full Contents 
CD 1 [60:41]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 - 1791)
Bastien und Bastienne, KV 50, complete recording (1-26)
Soloists from Wiener Sängerknaben, Wiener Kammerorchester/Edouard Lindenberg
Bonus:
Mozart overtures
27. Don Giovanni KV 527 [6:18]
28. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, KV 384 [5:20]
29. La clemenza di Tito, KV 621 [4:48]
30. La finta giardiniera, KV 196 [2:12]
31. Der Schauspieldirektor, KV 486 [4:21]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Rafael Kubelik
rec. November 1957 (1-26), February (28) and September (27, 29-31) 1952, Abbey Road Studio 1, London. (27-31 mono).
 
CD 2 [54:38]
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714 - 1787)
Orpheus und Eurydike - highlights
Hermann Prey (baritone) - Orpheus; Pilar Lorengar (soprano) - Eurydike; Erika Köth (soprano) - Amor; RIAS Kammerchor, Berliner Symphoniker/Horst Stein
rec. January 1962, Grünewaldkirche, Berlin-Grünewald
 
CD 3 [70:44]
Otto NICOLAI (1810 - 1849)
Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor - highlights (tr. 1-7)
Gottlob Frick (bass) - Sir John Falstaff; Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone) - Herr Fluth; Erika Köth (soprano) - Frau Fluth; Horst Wilhelm (tenor) - Fenton; Chor und Orchester der Städtischen Oper Berlin/Wilhelm Schüchter
Bonus:
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786 - 1826)
8. Abu Hassan, Overture [3:20]
9. Oberon, overture [8:13]
Albert LORTZING (1801 - 1851)
10. Der Wildschütz: Fünftausend Taler [5:20]
11. Zar und Zimmermann: O sancta Iustitia! [6:52]
Otto NICOLAI
12. Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor: Als Büblein klein [2:52]
Peter Iljitsch TSCHAIKOWSKY (1840 - 1893)
13. Eugen Onegin: Ein jeder kennt die Lieb’ [5:33]
Gürzenich-Orchester Köln/Otto Ackermann (8, 9)
Kurt Moll (bass) (10-13), Bayerisches Symphonie-Orchester/Kurt Graunke (10-12); Radio-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/Giuseppe Patanè (13)
rec. May 1955, Gemeindehaus, Berlin-Zehlendorf (1-7) (mono); September 1957, Opernhaus, Köln (8, 9) (mono); July 1977, Bürgerbräu, Munich (10-12) (stereo); Grünewaldkirche, Berlin-Grünewald (13) (stereo)
 
CD 4 [64:09]
Albert LORTZING
Der Waffenschmied - potpourri (1-8)
Gottlob Frick (bass) - Hans Stadinger; Lisa Otto (soprano) - Marie; Hermann Prey (baritone) - Ritter Graf von Liebenau; Gerhard Unger (tenor) - Georg; Emmy Hagemann (soprano) - Irmentraut; Chor, Berliner Symphoniker/Wilhelm Schüchter
Conradin KREUTZER (1780 - 1849)
Das Nachtlager in Granada, excerpts (9-11)
Hermann Prey (baritone) - Ein Jäger; Karl Kayser (solo violin); Chor der Deutschen Oper Berlin, Berliner Symphoniker/Martin Mälzer (9, 11); Wilhelm Schüchter (10)
Viktor Ernst NESSLER (1841 - 1890)
Der Trompeter von Säckingen - excerpts (12-15)
Hermann Prey (baritone) - Werner Kirchhofer; Karl Christian Kohn (bass) - Conradin; Helga Hildebrand (soprano) - Marie; Otto Fröhlich (solo trumpet), Chor der Deutschen Oper Berlin, Berliner Symphoniker/Wilhelm Schüchter
Friedrich von FLOTOW (1812 - 1883) 
16. Martha, overture [8:12]
Albert LORTZING
17. Undine, overture [8:13]
Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie/Wilhelm Schüchter
rec. September 1953, Berlin-Zehlendorf (1-8) (mono); May 1955 (10) (mono); November 1957 (9, 11) (mono); February 1957 (12-15) (mono), Berlin-Grünewald; May 1958, Bielefeld (16, 17) (stereo)
 
CD 5 [51:21]
Wilhelm KIENZL (1857 - 1941)
Der Evangelimann, highlights
Benno Kusche (bass-baritone) - Friedrich Engel/Anton Schnappauf/Die Stimme des Nachtwächters; Anneliese Rothenberger (soprano) - Martha; Marga Höffgen (mezzo) - Magdalena; Franz Crass (bass) - Johannes Freudhofer; Nicolai Gedda (tenor) - Mathias Freudhofer; Jürgen Förster (tenor) - Xaver Zitterbart; Friedrich Lenz (tenor) - Hans; Kinder-Singkreis St Wolfgang, München-Ost, Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper, Munich, Bayerisches Staatsorchester/Robert Heger
 
CD 6 [41:01]
Engelbert HUMPERDINCK (1854 - 1921)
Hänsel und Gretel, highlights (1-5)
Lore Hoffmann (mezzo) - Hänsel; Erika Köth (soprano) - Gretel; Helga Hildebrand (soprano) - Sandmännchen; Berliner Symphoniker/Arthur Grüber
Hänsel und Gretel - Suite (arr. Rudolf Kempe) (6-10)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Rudolf Kempe
rec. March 1958, Grünewaldkirche, Berlin-Grünewald (1-5) (stereo); January 1961, Abbey Road Studio No. 1 (6-10) (stereo)
 
CD 7 [56:05]
Richard STRAUSS (1864 - 1949)
Der Rosenkavalier, highlights
Leonie Rysanek (soprano) - Die Feldmarschallin; Gustav Neidlinger (bass) - Der Baron Ochs; Elisabeth Grümmer (soprano) - Octavian; Erika Köth (soprano) - Sophie; Sieglinde Wagner (mezzo) - Annina; Josef Traxel (tenor) - A singer; Ein Männerchor, Berliner Philharmoniker/Wilhelm Schüchter
rec. October 1955, Wintergarten, Berlin (mono)
 


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