Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 - 1791) Die Zauberflöte, K620 (1790) [166:29]
Tamino – Richard Lewis (tenor)
Pamina – Joan Carlyle (soprano)
Sarastro – David Kelly (bass)
Queen of the Night – Joan Sutherland (soprano)
Papageno – Geraint Evans (baritone)
Papagena – Jenifer Eddy (soprano)
Speaker – Hans Hotter (bass)
Monostatos – Robert Bowman (tenor)
Three Ladies – Judith Pierce, Josephine Veasey (sopranos), Monica Sinclair (mezzo)
Three Boys – Margaret Neville, Ann Hood, Marion Roberts (sopranos)
Priests – John Dobson, Ronald Lewis
Two Armed Men – Edgar Evans, Victor Godfrey
Covent Garden Opera Chorus, students of St Martin-in-the-Fields Secondary School
Covent Garden Orchestra/Otto Klemperer
rec. live, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, London, 4 January 1962 Symphony No. 41 in C major, K551, Jupiter (1788) [28:52]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, 5 October 1954 PRISTINE AUDIO PACO115 [3 CDs: 73:01 + 64:55 + 57:23]
The comparison to be made is between this 1962 live stage version, which Klemperer produced as well as conducted, and his 1964 ‘studio’ recording (EMI 9667932). It's arguably something of a no-contest as the 1964 is stereo and the 1962 mono. This Pristine Audio release opens out the sound into its favoured ‘ambient stereo’ and to reasonably full tone, yet still lacks the clarity of true stereo. But in interpretation, things aren’t so clear cut. Take the Overture: the 1962’s opening tutti has more grandeur, more sense of occasion, although the 1964 first violins’ pleading theme in the introduction has greater nuance and the second violins’ underpinning more tension. The 1964 Allegro has great precision but more of a studied quality where the 1962 has a pleasing lightness and its flute and oboe solos favour the airborne. The Adagio wind summons is more imposing in 1962 where 1964’s is rather too reverential. I can sum up the entire orchestral contribution by saying that the Philharmonia plays better but the Covent Garden Orchestra displays more spirit and attractive adrenalin.
Does this also apply to the vocal soloists? To some extent, yes, but the issue here is also the inherent quality of the singers’ voices. While Richard Lewis in 1962 conveys well the heroic nature of Tamino, Nicolai Gedda in 1964 sings more beautifully and the orchestral accompaniment is certainly finely matched to his singing. Nevertheless Tamino’s opening aria, ‘Dies Bildnis’, in which he falls in love with Pamina’s portrait, is presented expressively by Lewis, with an attractively ingenuous quality. I also enjoyed the robustness of the Three Ladies’ trio as they show their infatuation for Tamino who they have just rescued. The humour of its Allegretto section (CD1 tr. 3, 3:30) is more racy than in 1964; they even add a shared laugh. In 1962 there’s a devil-may-care lustiness from Geraint Evans’s Papageno in his opening aria, ‘Der Vogelfänger’, introducing himself as bird catcher, mirrored in his accompanying pan pipe which in its penultimate solo ascent provides an unsanctioned corresponding descent instead of repeat. There's an immediate amused reaction from the audience. In 1964 Walter Berry’s Papageno has a more engaging smile in his voice, quietly enjoying life; easier to do in a recording when stage projection isn’t an issue. Depending on your familiarity with spoken German, an advantage 1962 has over 1964 is that it contains Schikaneder’s dialogue, albeit somewhat truncated. The outcome is a more rounded view of the characters, with Papageno in particular emerging as a more vibrant figure. Joan Carlyle’s Pamina is a more sympathetic figure in the dialogue comforting Papageno than when she next sings her duet ‘Bei Männern’ with him, where her strong projection comes across as a need to dominate. In 1964 Gundula Janowitz and Walter Berry, with more marked dynamic contrast, vividly realise the duet’s dual nature of idyll and celebration.
Enter Joan Sutherland’s Queen of the Night with her recitative and aria ‘O zittre nicht’. Pristine Audio’s cover above shows it believes she is the star turn of the production and she sings the coloratura passages better than anyone. However, at the beginning of the aria, when she recounts a mother’s grief at having her daughter taken from her, she overdoes the imposing majesty at the expense of pathos. Lucia Popp in 1964, whose coloratura is less brilliant, is more human at the opening. Sutherland really comes into her own in the fire and brimstone of her Act 2 aria, ‘Der Hölle Rache’. She delivers a wonderful display of top Fs, or rather Es, as Klemperer allowed both her arias to be transposed down — this by a tone, the Act 1 by a semitone. The thrilling outcome validates this decision for stage performance, but for repeated playings you might prefer to insist, as in the 1964 recording, on the pitch Mozart wanted. You do in 1962, and not in 1964, get the thunder that accompanies the entrance and close of the Queen’s first aria and close of her second. You can access this aria for free on the
Pristine Classical website, also the following dialogue between Pamina, Monostatos and Sarastro and Sarastro’s second Act 2 aria, ‘In diesen heil’gen Hallen’. In 1962 David Kelly’s Sarastro is fruitily lyrical, avuncular and all beneficence. Gottlob Frick in 1964 is firmer in voice, a man enjoying a sunny interlude yet still with an underlying authority. Kelly’s earlier Act 2 aria of prayer, ‘O Isis und Osiris’, has fitting dignity yet still warmth where Frick has a more compelling humility.
Much of 1962’s Act 1 finale is unremarkable, but three passages do stand out. The first is the meeting of Tamino and the Speaker where Hans Hotter’s wisdom and beneficence is a foretaste of Sarastro’s, contrasted with Richard Lewis’s hasty heroism. Hotter’s richer, more mellifluous tone is preferable to the lighter, more steely authority of 1964’s Franz Crass. The second notable feature in 1962 is the engaging simplicity of Tamino’s aria to his magic flute, ‘Wie stark ist nicht dein Zauberton’, a smooth, flowing flute here and an aria blithe and sad in turn. 1964’s flute is fresher and Gedda’s aria more golden in tone but the sad contrast is less convincing. The third time your attention is gripped in 1962 is at the sudden searingly bright Presto enthusiasm of the closing chorus of purification. There’s a feel of spontaneity about it that’s lacking in the fuller-toned 1964 recording.
The March of the Priests that begins Act 2 offers another example of the benefit of a staged performance. The 1962 one is stately but also smooth and serene, yet with a well marked, even satirical, ostentation towards the end of sections, the faster dotted rhythms at the end of the first and sforzandi at the end of the second. Its timing is 2:55 whereas that of 1964 at 3:33 would on stage appear as sleep walking. In 1962 there’s intensity to the quintet ‘Wie? wie? wie?’ as the Three Ladies provide Tamino and Papageno’s first test, to which Tamino responds heroically and Papageno comically. In 1964 the emphasis is rather on the stylishness of orchestration, suaveness of Tamino and change of attitude of the Ladies. Gerhard Unger in 1964 makes Monostatos’ aria ‘Alles fühlt der Liebe Freuden’ wryly innocent in its jocularity, aided by a merrier flute and piccolo accompaniment than in 1962, where Robert Bowman’s lust is undisguised.
Pamina’s big aria, ‘Ach, ich fühl’s’, in which she resolves to die when she thinks Tamino has rejected her, is sung in 1962 with a stark, distraught realisation by Joan Carlyle, movingly tapering to plaintive sorrow and despair. In 1964 Gundula Janowitz sorrows from the outset and, while less externally dramatic, internalises the emotion to more profound effect with smoother tone and poise throughout. The 1962 Chorus of the Priests, ‘O Isis und Osiris, welche Wonne!’ is ecstatic about Tamino’s success whereas 1964’s is more formal and weighty. However, the 1964 trio, ‘Soli ich dich Teurer nicht mehr sehn?’ is more successful than 1962 because Frick’s Sarastro has more presence while Janowitz’s Pamina and Gedda’s Tamino are more convincing in their mutual warmth. Papageno’s make-believe of an ideal partner, ‘Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen’, is robustly delivered in 1962 by Evans, but Berry in 1964 has a more attractive delighted innocence. In the 1962 Act 2 finale Carlyle’s distraction, as Pamina tries to stab herself, becomes screechy where Janowitz’s resolve in 1964 has a beautiful purity in itself. Nevertheless both supply a fine top B flat invoking the gods. The Two Armed Men of 1962 are more stark than those of 1964, but the final duet of Pamina and Tamino is more smoothly and balmily effected in 1964. Berry’s Papageno again offers more vivid characterisation than Evans’s as he moves from a comic equivalent of Pamina’s attempted suicide through crestfallen pouting to sorrowing self-pity before the blithe animation of reprieve and plans for umpteen children with Papagena.
To complete CD3 Pristine Audio give us Klemperer’s 1954 ‘studio’ recording of the Jupiter symphony. Here comparison is with Klemperer’s ‘studio’ recording of 1962, also with the Philharmonia (EMI 9559322). Again this Pristine Audio ‘ambient stereo’ transfer of a mono recording is bright and fresh but lacks the body, roundedness and detail of the later stereo. Again the earlier interpretation has more verve, partly owing to pace, the first movement in 1954 taking 8:00 against 1962’s 9:17. In 1962 Klemperer brings more character and charm to the strings’ response to the opening phrase and its subsequent development, but in 1954 the second theme (CD3 tr. 6, 1:27) is both lissom yet full of jollity. The third theme (2:34) skips along, more in keeping with its fiery continuation. In 1954 the spiky counterpoint of the development is a thing of impressive power in itself where in 1962 it is objectively disciplined. In 1954 the fake recapitulation (4:04) is nonchalant but soon thrust away by a turbulent continuation of the development. In 1962 the transition is from musing to more discipline.
The slow movement in 1954 takes 8:18 against 1962’s 9:08. Its violins are thereby searchingly expressive yet still alert - a classical approach rather than the romantic dreaminess of 1962, yet the violins’ demisemiquavers retain their gossamer weight. The cleanly marked sforzandi of the second theme (tr. 7, 1:29) hint at potential tragedy, more heavily realised in 1962. The third theme in 1954 (2:16) is warm, almost Brahmsian, with in its second part very delicate semiquavers in the violins. In 1962 this theme has more angst with the second part more indulgently nostalgic. In 1954 the sforzandi are sterner and more insistent in the development, tragedy coming closer, but in 1962 there’s greater pain and a sense of actual tragedy. In the Minuet in 1954 a gracefully flowing proposition by the violins is followed by a spirited tutti retort. In the second strain there’s almost headlong momentum. The Trio has phrase openings of repose, succeeded by skipping retorts and a thrusting opening to the second section. In 1962 the Minuet is more refined but less spirited, the Trio more relaxed.
In the finale a light opening from the strings is immediately contrasted with a tutti of rhythmic incisiveness, verve and propulsion almost at the limit of articulation. The second theme (tr. 9, 1:02) is also light, even frisky, at first. The sforzandi are exciting. The development has bounce and the coda (7:24) offers a moment of both repose and beautiful dedication before a final affirmation that combines great sinew and forward thrust. Given the inclusion of the exposition repeat, not made in 1962, the 1954 account takes 8:27 against the 1962 6:45 but equivalent 9:11. The 1962 account has greater thematic clarity, especially in the display of the movement’s five motifs together in the coda, but seems relatively stiff in comparison with 1954. In sum, 1962 is better played but the 1954 is the finer performance. Michael Greenhalgh