Richard Strauss Die Frau ohne Schatten Leonie Rysanek Hans Hopf Karl Böhm
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- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- Package Dimensions : 32.2 x 32 x 1.8 cm; 879.99 Grams
- Date First Available : 30 Aug. 2012
- Manufacturer : DECCA
- ASIN : B007X3HZYG
- Customer reviews:
Vinyl LP Box Richard Strauss Die Frau ohne Schatten Leonie Rysanek Hans Hopf Karl Böhm [Vinyl] Leonie Rysanek; Richard Strauss; Karl Böhm und Wiener Philharmoniker
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The opening works were all about the triumph of all that is good about the human spirit triumphing over the forces of evil and adversity, the first being almost inevitably being Fidelio, followed by Die Zauberflote and then Strauss's Die Frau Ohne Schatten.
These last 2 works were doubly apt in that they both followed a very popular Viennese tradition of "Magical Theatre" and both were premiered in Vienna-the Mozart in the Theater an der Wien where as well as at the Volksoper the opera company had been performing since 1945, and the Strauss in the Hofoper in 1919, just before it was renamed the Staatsoper in 1920.
The Decca Record Company had exercised great foresight in sensing that the newly emerging LP and especially stereophonic recording market would enter a boom period and had newly signed an exclusive recording deal with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, which brought much needed financial stability to the still impoverished band.
Decca planned well in advance to record the Zauberflote, which they did with great success, but there were no plans to record the still rather obscure FROSCH which was seen as not a commercial prospect.
However, the production was a huge success, acclaimed worldwide and the story of the management pleading with Decca to record it only to be rebuffed, followed by conductor and cast pleading with Victor Olof and offering to waive fees etc. is well known.
Bohm argued that the producers, engineers and equipment were still in place following the Mozart sessions and that it would require very little extra investment to record FROSCH.
Decca reluctantly decided that it was better not to alienate the then powerful music director at the start of this new relationship, and the hastily arranged sessions took place in the freezing winter conditions of late November and December 1955 in an unheated Musikverein, with the cast wearing coats and scarves and peering through clouds of their own freezing breath
This brings an interesting aside-the recent Salzburg Production by Christopher Loy and conducted by Thielemann -available on DVD/Blu-ray-sought to recreate this event in the stage production.
However, the setting lovingly recreated is in fact the Sofiensaal which was not used as a venue until John Culshaw replaced Victor Olof (who had defected to EMI), and the first complete recording from the new venue was the 1957 Arabella conducted with little preparation by Solti after Karl Bohm withdrew late in the day.
(Culshaw and Bohm did not see eye to eye over artistic interpretation)
Thus the conceit of the Loy Salzburg production is a misplaced one!
Back to the 1955 recording-it was produced as a Mono recording by Victor Olof, but simultaneously and unbeknown to the artists, Peter Andry, fresh from several weeks of stereo recording of The Ring, Dutchman and segments of Tannhauser in Bayreuth simultaneously produced a stereo version by the simple expedient of placing 2 balanced microphones high above the platform in the manner used so effectively by Westminster and Mercury.
The resultant recording gives the lie to Decca propaganda that persisted for a generation that the Musikverein was a difficult acoustic for recording purposes-this was instigated by John Culshaw and his team to enhance the reputation of their Sofiensaal recordings.
It is certainly true that the legendary "Christmas Tree" microphone setup that Decca developed for the Sofiensaal did not produce good results in the Musikverein, but this was a problem with Decca, not the Musikverein.
Within months of the completion of this recording there was a seismic shift in the fortunes of Decca and the Staatsoper. Olof and Andry "defected" to EMI resulting in John Culshaw's promotion, Karl Bohm in an embarrassing musico-political coup that failed resigned his post only to withdraw his resignation 24 hours later-and have his withdrawal rejected.
Herbert von Karajan was appointed in his stead-the rest is history.
It was not long before the ensemble that we hear on this recording was broken up, as Karajan began to bring in international stars to supplement and replace the company regulars.
One of the joys of this recording is hearing the legendary company that revived the fortunes of this great house-a true ensemble performance with everyone committed and understanding their fellow artist's roles as well as their own.
The stereo recording was not released until 1963 and was for many years with the live Munich Keilberth one of only 2 recordings available of this great work.
It is the "lesser cut" version sanctioned by Strauss, who was aware that smaller houses especially would inevitably make cuts and he prepared a selection of possible cuts for nearly all his operas-Salome is an exception. Over the years individual conductors and producers have made evermore swingeing cuts to FROSCH, no doubt with the best of intentions as it has proved a difficult work with audiences, but Bohm uses the least amount of cuts and is consistent in the various recordings available under his direction. One of the finest recordings that by Sinopoli, is sadly the most savagely cut of all.
Volumes have been written about what this work means. My advice is-don't worry about it. The plot is easy enough to follow, even if it does not appear to make sense, but what each scene-each line!-means is another matter better mulled over after you have stopped listening.
"Go with the flow" is my exhortation and let yourself be swept away by the inspired tsunami of musical invention that engulfs the listener.
The late Reginald Goodall when asked what was the meaning of Parsifal replied that he had no idea, but when he was conducting it he understood it perfectly. My reaction is the same-when I'm listening I understand every nuance, but don't ask me what it all means afterwards.
This is the best sung performance overall-the commitment of each artist offsets any vocal criticism one might have.
The young Rysanek is sensational, Goltz is effective though like Nilsson cannot find the allure that the character should have to offset the shrewish nature-Behrens is supreme in this role. Goltz and her Barak-57 year old Paul Schoeffler sound a mature couple-but the sheer beauty of the legato singing of Schoeffler is pure delight.
Hongen's Nurse is a touch shrill at times, but wonderfully well drawn-much better than Modl for Keilberth-and Hans Hopf is only surpassed by Heppner in the part of Emperor.
It is true that there is some clumsy phrasing, awkward breaths mid-phrase and some have unkindly commented on a slight lisp, but the sheer steadiness and rich tone sweep all criticism away for me.
One only has to experience the strangulated tonsils of the portly Stephen Gould in the role on the Thielemann film to appreciate just how good Hopf was!
The ensemble cast has never been equalled, let alone bettered!
The orchestra is on magnificent form-complete with sour oboe- and the recording brings out an astonishing amount of detail. There is some muddiness in congested passages but not enough to cause concern.
Bohm is a little restrained at times compared to his live recordings, but it is a magnificent reading nonetheless.
The set was re-mastered at 20 Bits in 1991, but eschews the Cedar 2 filter process meaning that the top is bright and shining. Happily it is transferred at a very high level, so slight tape hiss is only noticeable in some very quiet moments and is not an issue.
Sadly, the set is not in the current catalogue but can be obtained new and used from specialist dealers. I obtained my new sealed copy very reasonably through a seller on amazon USA who did not ship to UK, but my daughter lives in Washington DC and I obtained it via her good offices.
It is handsomely presented in the " London" livery with an imposing dark slipcase, extensive notes and a full libretto. No doubt there are easier ways to get hold of a copy.
This is a recommendation for connoisseurs of great artistry, recording from a golden age-and above all, lovers of this great work. It is a life affirming experience, as Strauss and Hofmannsthal intended.
Realistically the top recommendation remains the bargain priced Sawallisch, one of only 2 recordings of the complete work uncut (Solti is the other), in superb sound and with a first rate cast-and Sawallisch is an inspired interpreter.
An unlikely recommendation is also the DVD/Blu-ray Maryinsky version under Gergiev-which is both visually and musically remarkably fine (the production is an all British affair led by Jonathan Kent). It is superior to the Thielemann in just about every respect bar the playing of the VPO, and even then there is little to choose.
I hope that my meanderings will have piqued someone's interest, and I apologise to those whom I have bored. Stars are unlimited and irrelevant. Stewart Crowe.
Despite knowing that Böhm is invariably at his best in Strauss operas, I had hitherto avoided this recording as a result of my aversion to Hans Hopf. However, I was wrong: in 1955, his tenor is in very good condition and he even manages a degree of controlled subtlety as the Emperor, even though by the early sixties he had become a bawler. Here, he is very fine: powerful and able to maintain a good line .Leonie Rysanek is finest voice, both delicate and powerful by turns, with very little of the "lowing" mannerism which occasionally afflicted her voice later and she acts so vividly in the "Golden Water of Life" scene. Christel Goltz could be vocally awkward but she is in best voice, slightly plummy or cloudy of tone with a vibrato that often threatens to obtrude but here mostly accurate and impassioned. Paul Schoeffler is a warm, deeply humane Barak. The supporting cast consists of Vienna stalwarts of the era; slight disappointment comes from Kurt Böhme and Elisabeth Höngen. Both are somewhat under-powered: he is a bit rocky and blaring and she, despite her presenting a credibly creepy, odious Nurse, lacks resonance and heft at big moments such as when she declaims "Weh über dich" and the Empress rejects her in Act III.
As I first said, there are many other recommendable versions, not least Böhm's various, later live recordings in the 70's with Rysanek, Karajan's two live recordings in 1964 with either Rysanek or Janowitz, Keilberth's live 1963 account, Solti's and Sinopoli's studio versions - but this has special virtue in that it finds |Rysanek in most youthful voice and historical value, too, as a monument to the greatness of the Viennese opera operating under trying conditions in the mid-50's.