Yvonne Kenny (soprano)..............The Fieldmarschallin, Princess
Diana Montague (mezzo-soprano)............. Octavian
Rosemary Joshua (soprano)........................ Sophie
John Tomlinson (bass).................................. Baron Ochs
The Peter Kay Children's Choir/Geoffrey Mitchell Choir
London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Parry.
It's all a matter of taste whether you prefer your opera in English or the
original language and whether you prefer "bleeding chunks" highlights or
the unfolding of the complete production. There is no denying that Chandos
present here a generous helping of highlights with only 20 seconds short
of what we are given to understand is the maximum capacity of one CD (i.e.
80 minutes of music). Clearly in a production that normally takes some 3
CDs to accomodate there has to be some grievous ommissions and for me they
include the marvellous Act I tenor aria (quite irrelevant to the plot but
who cares?) that was sung so beguilingly by Nicolai Gedda in the
Schwarzkopf/Karajan recording and the sparkling orchestral prelude to Act
This recording comprises:
Act I (opening)
Act I (conclusion)
Act II (opening)
Act II (conclusion)
Act III (conclusion).
Chandos's ravishing sound is ideal for the hot house opening scene of the
opera as we hear the birds' dawn chorus after Octavian and the Marschallin
have enjoyed a night of passion, Strauss's opulent scoring tells us all.
In this opening scene where Octavian protests his love, the advantage of
the immediate comprehension of English helps one to appreciate Strauss's
subtleties and ironies. When for instance, Octavian murmers "...for I alone
know your secrets", the woodwinds tell us that he is deluding himself. This
opening excerpt closes after Marschallin has confirmed softly and tenderly
(almost, and appositely, motherly) to Octavian that "You are my boy, you
are my heart..." and after that meltingly beautiful brief orchestral description
of their bliss. Then we go straight to the closing of the first act when
Baron Ochs has been seen off. Marschallin rues his boorishness but then turns
to her own predicament and begins to reflect on the pasing of time. During
a bittersweet exchange with Octavian when she predict that he will soon forsake
her for a prettier, younger love, she tells us in one of Strauss's most touching
and evocative arias that " ...time is a mysterious thing" and that ..."Sometimes
I arise in the dead of night, go to my clocks and stop them every one..."
Kenny rings one's heartstrings here.
The Act II Presentation of the Rose is given in its entirety. The procession
and the duet between Octavian and Sophie as they begin to fall in love are
magical. The Act II conclusion excerpt is concerned with the setting of the
trap for Ochs. John Tomlinson is in excellent form as the boorish old womaniser
ardently singing: "with me not a night is too long" to one of Strauss's most
beautiful and most memorable waltzes.
The final excerpt begins as Ochs gets his come-uppance and is chased from
the inn by all his creditors and "children". But the big attraction is that
famous, wonderful, soaring trio as the Marschallin lets Octavian go and blesses
the young lovers while Octavian and Sophie at first awkward, guilty and confused,
surrender to their love. Who could be unmoved by such an exquisite celebration
of the feminine voice? Following on we have the equally beautiful unearthly
duet between Sophie and Octavian as they swear eternal love to each other.
The excerpt ends as the opera ends as the little Black Boy returns to the
now empty stage to retrieve the Marschallin's handkerchief thus giving the
audience time to compose themselves before the lights go up - just one instance
of Hofmannsthal's and Strauss's sublime sense of theatre.
This is a sparkling production wth all the principals in very good voice.
I would suggest that it is a very good introduction for newcomers to the
opera and a valuable aid in further appreciation of the opera. Listen to
this first then set aside an evening to hear the whole opera - either the
1954 Erich Kleiber Decca recording with Maria Reining, Sena Jurinac, Hilde
Geuden and Ludwig Weber or the 1957 Karajan set with Schwarzkopf, Otto Edeelmann,
Christa Ludwig and Teresa Stich-Randall, and Ljuba Welitsch as Marianne.