Richard Strauss: "Der Rosenkavalier" / 1949 Salzburg Festival / Reining, Novotna, Güden, Vienna Phil., Szell
This four-CD set features Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier, recorded live at the 1949 Salzburg Festival, with George Szell conducting and Maria Reining as the Marchallin, Jarmila Novotná as Octavian and Hilde Güden as Sophie. The set features the full 1949 Salzburg Der Rosenkavalier as well as excerpts from the famous 1933 HMV/EMI recording with Lotte Lehmann, Richard Mayr and Elisabeth Schumann. The lavishly illustrated booklet includes many rare photographs along with essays by producer Gottfried Kraus ("The Rosenkavalier Tradition at Salzburg") and British critic Michael Oliver ("Richard Strauss and Hugo Hofmannsthal: A Dramatic Correspondence") as well as the full libretto in German, English and French.
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Perhaps the sound quality of this live recording is not up to snuff with contemporary studio recordings, but it's remarkably clear and bright (in this digital radio offering).
And the big surprise for me is the exquisitely apt, dancingly rhythmic style Szell brings to the whole thing.
We don't normally, I believe, think of Szell as a conductor who generates a stylish, limpid sound. I think of him, anyway, as one of the bigger, noisier, more boisterous conductors--like Reiner in a certain vein or Solti (but not so loud).
But, like Reiner, Szell can bring a wonderful lyric musicality out of an orchestra--especially these Viennese musicians.
Operas, and live recordings especially, depend so much on a kind of mysterious coherence, the ability of the conductor to create an elastic pulse that continues from measure to measure and scene to scene and act to act so that the work coheres as a whole, rather than falling into separate 'effects,' however lovely.
Szell does that here, as Beecham does for his justly famous Boheme, von Karajan does for his old Magic Flute and Knappertsbusch does for his better Rings.
Having heard many modern recordings of Rosenkavalier and several older ones, I find this Szell recording a pretty much perfect reading of the work as a whole. Yes, others are more lush, have more perfect voices, are more delicate or more powerful here or there. But this one involves you from start to finish and gives you pleasure upon pleasure.
Go for it.
The above review was written before I ordered this CD. Now that I own it, I'm thrilled. It's a lovely edition of the work. The sonic restoration is as good as one can hope. It's a huge thick thing, with the entire libretto, lovely smart little essays, and gorgeous old photos, different ones in each language version of the essays. This is the way CD publishers should make money: adding value.
Produzione fantastica con grandi specialisti nei rispettivi ruoli (Novotna e Reining su tutti)
Superba e brillante la direzione, che non sfigura accanto a quella di Karajan e Kleiber (anche se entrambe inarrivabili).
Grande merito di Andante riproporre questi superbi live: di questa serie fanno parte anche Meistersinger e Falstaff diretti da Toscanini che già possiedo.
Grazie ad Andante!!
The rest of the cast is mixed -- Gueden excellent, Novotna in rough voice. Szell's conducting is swift and he keeps the conversational pace of this opera as Strauss/Hoffmansthall intended.
This is not a first Rosenkavalier for beginners, but those used to historic sound who want to hear a great portrayal of the Marschallin, and one of the few samples on CD of the art of Maria Reining at its peak, must have this.