MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing from

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Leonore (original version of Fidelio, 1805)
Gwyneth Jones (soprano) – Leonore
James King (tenor) – Florestan
Rotraud Hansmann (soprano) – Marzelline
Werner Hollweg (tenor) – Jacquino
Gerd Nienstedt (bass) – Rocco
Theo Adam (baritone) – Pizarro
Eberhard Wächter (bass) – Don Fernando, 1st Prisoner; 2nd Prisoner, not identified
Singverein der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien
ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra/Carl Melles
rec. live, 14 Dec. 1970, Musikverein, Vienna
No pdf booklet provided.
Reviewed as download from
ORFEO C200052 [143:02]

Beethoven’s first attempt at the opera which would eventually become Fidelio shows up in the catalogue from time to time. This year already there has been a new version from René Jacobs and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra on Harmonia Mundi (review), which I have not yet heard. It is a much longer and less concise work than Fidelio, and as such is mostly heard as a curiosity rather than a work of vital importance. On hearing it again I find that Beethoven’s earlier versions of the arias just seem to go on forever. Leonore’s aria, Komm Hoffnung meanders endlessly in a more elaborate and ultimately pointless coloratura in comparison to his gripping revision of the aria in 1814.

Similar situations exist for Florestan and Don Pizarro, although the latter gets far more stage exposure than in the later version. Marzelline also gets more to sing including a lovely duet scene for her and Fidelio in Act Two. The one number that is superior in the 1805 Leonore is the beautiful romantic setting of the final ensemble O Gott! O welch ein Augenblick! The earlier version is more expressive of the various emotions and therefore more deeply moving than its 1814 counterpart. The overture, commonly known as Leonore No 2, is not quite the overwhelming experience that Leonore No 3 would become in the revision of 1806.

This recording derives from a live concert for Austrian Radio in the Beethoven Bicentenary year of 1970. In general it is as fine a representation of Leonore as I have come across. Gwyneth Jones, James King and Theo Adam had all sung their roles in Karl Böhm’s recording of Fidelio for DG in March of 1969. All of them made fine contributions in that recording; here they have to work much harder but there is hardly any difference to be noted in their singing.

Gwyneth Jones sang Fidelio quite often throughout the 1970s. She was in especially fine voice for Böhm’s recording. Whenever I hear her on recordings I am always put in mind of the little valve on top of a pressure cooker. Her moments of squally sounding tone seem remarkably like that of the intense pressure escaping from the valve on the cooker. On this occasion those moments are very few and far between. She gets through the unbelievably demanding earlier version of O namenlose Freude with voice to spare. She slips only in the more difficult coloratura of her Act Two aria, where her runs emerge somewhat smudged. Still, she is a deeply committed performer and that shows on the recording.

James King is a more than adequate Florestan and he sings his added music with great distinction. However, his tone simply refuses to expand above the staff so that at times he sounds waspish and unyielding in comparison to other tenors. He was always more at home in the lower tenor roles such as Parsifal.

Gerd Nienstedt gives a very rounded portrayal of Rocco, the jailor. He is aided in this by the fact that the 1805 version presents Rocco as a more fully developed character. His warm voice and full tone are a pleasure to encounter. Theo Adam makes a meal of Don Pizarro. His aria is mostly shouting but that is Beethoven’s fault rather than Mr Adam’s. His tone is wonderfully pithy and solid and quite able to convey a brutally evil nature.

Don Fernando is sung by Eberhard Wächter who voices it with dignified sympathy but he is starting to display early signs of spread in his tone at this stage. The real glory of this set is the absolutely perfect Marzelline of Austrian soprano Rotraud Hansmann. Her sweet voice with its flutelike tone and naturally poised delivery makes her one of the finest exponents of the role on disc. We are lucky, then, that she gets much more to sing in this earlier version because her every appearance is welcome. She is quite possibly the best Marzelline I have heard, or at least she is a match for the virtually peerless Lucia Popp on Leonard Bernstein’s recording.

Jacquino is voiced by the young Werner Hollweg, who already is showing the promise of greater things to come. Carl Melles conducts with a deeply romantic, sweeping manner, using traditional modern instruments. The Hungarian maestro is rather forgotten these days, but this recording will help to keep the memory of his achievements alive. Orfeo has not provided the press download with a file containing the booklet. Hopefully those who purchase the downloadable files will be better served by the company. (Sadly, that seems not to be the case with any of the versions I tried; it's especially regrettable with vocal music and opera. [Ed.])

The sound is extremely good and the audience presence is only noticed at the end of each act.

I shall certainly be turning to this recording when I want to listen to Leonore although part of me wishes that Orfeo had released instead the Austrian radio tapes of the centenary production of Fidelio which featured some of the same singers under the riveting leadership of Leonard Bernstein from June of 1970. That truly would be a CD release of value.

Mike Parr

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing