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Humperdinck: Hansel Und Gretel / Karajan, Grummer, Schwarzkopf, Metternich


Release Date: 11/09/2010 
Label:  Warner Classics   Catalog #: 40716   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Engelbert HumperdinckUnspecified
Performer:  Anny FelbermayerElisabeth GrümmerMaria von IlosvayJosef Metternich,   ... 
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia OrchestraLoughton Girls School ChorusBancroft's School Choir
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 48 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This set includes a CD-ROM containing a synopsis and libretto.

To describe Karajan's Hänsel und Gretel as the benchmark recording is almost to state the obvious. Its quality, both in terms of the performance and the recording, more than justify that status, and its perennial place in the catalogue may well explain why so few competitors have appeared in the intervening almost sixty years.

Looking at the organisations and personalities that were involved in the original recording, it is hardly surprising that something of enduring pleasure was created. You've got Schwarzkopf at the height of her powers and the Philharmonia in a period when they were easily London's hottest orchestra. Karajan's legacy
Read more of operatic recordings is not unblemished, but there is no doubt that the best of it was the result of collaborations with Walter Legge and the Philharmonia.

Like their other great triumph, the 1956 Rosenkavalier, this Hänsel und Gretel seems to have been the result of some very relaxed recording sessions. Much of these two operas was recorded in single takes, and there is a spontaneity here that live recordings today so often try, and so often fail, to emulate. Karajan had never conducted the Humperdinck before, and there is an almost childlike curiosity about the way he teases details out of the orchestral textures.

Mike Ashman, in his fascinating but brief liner-notes, opines that Karajan goes for a sound that is more Straussian than Wagnerian. He asserts that the musical focus is always on soloists in the orchestra, and on unmediated song, as opposed to aria, presentation from the singers. That's very true, but the balance between simplicity and sophistication in the singing of every major role is complex and fascinating. For example, Elisabeth Grümmer and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, as Hansel and Gretel respectively. Each sings with child-like exuberance, and they bring endearing enthusiasm to the bird-calls and folk-songs. There is plenty of vibrato in both voices, and there is never any suggestion that either is trying to sound child-like. Else Schürhoff is great as the witch, but also very tasteful. It's a role you could ham up much more if you were going for the pantomime angle, although I'm not sure Karajan would have approved.

Much has been made over the years of the high quality of the recorded sound. If you didn't know, you would be unlikely to guess that the recording was made in 1953 … and in mono. The singers are extremely well served by the engineers, as are most of the orchestral soloists. The tuttis often seem a little distant and muted, but there is a surprising clarity to all the orchestral textures. And what fabulous orchestral playing! There is real character to all of the wind and brass solos, and the ensemble in the strings is first rate.

This reissue is not the only one on the market, nor is it the cheapest. EMI no longer have exclusive rights to the recording, meaning that anybody with access to the masters can issue it. There is a very reasonably priced version on Naxos, who have their own re-mastering team, so you can expect some slight differences in audio presentation. EMI, for their part, have come up with an interesting extra, the libretto as a pdf on a supplementary CD. Whether or not that will appease the many opera fans who regularly bemoan the lack of librettos in budget opera sets I can't say, but it is a nice touch. If you are already in front of a computer, finding the libretto on the internet is hardly difficult. Also, given the unused space on the CD, there would surely be room here to include the score as a pdf, and at no further expense considering that it too is out of copyright.

A modern makeover, then, for an old favourite. EMI are at something of a turning point in their history just now, and if reissues like this can help to keep the company afloat, then they are certainly to be welcomed. The record industry has changed beyond all recognition since 1953, making the continual appearance of this recording in the catalogues one of its few enduring certainties. No doubt, EMI will continue to reissue it in various forms for as long as the company exists. If this did end up being their last version of it, then they've certainly done the recording justice with some handsome packaging. There is no doubt that it will continue to appear again and again as the years go by. The only question is, how long will the red square logo continue to appear in the top right-hand corner?

-- Gavin Dixon, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Hänsel und Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck
Performer:  Anny Felbermayer (Soprano), Elisabeth Grümmer (Soprano), Maria von Ilosvay (Alto),
Josef Metternich (Baritone), Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (Soprano), Else Schürhoff (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Loughton Girls School Chorus,  Bancroft's School Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; Germany 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London 
Length: 71 Minutes 32 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Hänsel und Gretel: Ouvertüre/Vorspiel/Prélude (Orchester)
Hänsel und Gretel, ERSTES BILD/ACT 1/PREMIER ACTE, Erstes Szene/Scene 1/Première Scène: Suse, liebe Suse, was raschelt im Stroh? (Gretel/Hänsel)
Hänsel und Gretel, ERSTES BILD/ACT 1/PREMIER ACTE, Erstes Szene/Scene 1/Première Scène: So recht! und willst du nun nicht mehr klagen (Gretel/Hänsel)
Hänsel und Gretel, ERSTES BILD/ACT 1/PREMIER ACTE, Erstes Szene/Scene 1/Première Scène: Brüderchen, komm tanz' mit mir - Tanzduett (Gretel/Hänsel)
Hänsel und Gretel, ERSTES BILD/ACT 1/PREMIER ACTE, Zweite Szene/Scene 2/Deuxième Scène: Holla! ... Himmel! Die Mutter! (Mutter/Hänsel/Gretel)
Hänsel und Gretel, ERSTES BILD/ACT 1/PREMIER ACTE, Zweite Szene/Scene 2/Deuxième Scène: Marsch! Fort in den Wald! (Mutter)
Hänsel und Gretel, ERSTES BILD/ACT 1/PREMIER ACTE, Dritte Szene/Scene 3/Troisième Scène: Ral la la la, ral la la la, Heissa Mutter, ich bin da! (Vater)
Hänsel und Gretel, ERSTES BILD/ACT 1/PREMIER ACTE, Dritte Szene/Scene 3/Troisième Scène: Ho ho! Wer spek-spektakelt mir da im Haus... (Mutter/Vater)
Hänsel und Gretel, ERSTES BILD/ACT 1/PREMIER ACTE, Dritte Szene/Scene 3/Troisième Scène: Doch halt, wo bleiben die Kinder? (Mutter/Vater)
Hänsel und Gretel, ERSTES BILD/ACT 1/PREMIER ACTE, Dritte Szene/Scene 3/Troisième Scène: Wenn sie sich verirrten im Walde dort (Mutter/Vater)
Hänsel und Gretel, ERSTES BILD/ACT 1/PREMIER ACTE, Dritte Szene/Scene 3/Troisième Scène: Eine Hex', steinalt haust tief im Wald (Mutter/Vater)
Hänsel und Gretel, ERSTES BILD/ACT 1/PREMIER ACTE, Dritte Szene/Scene 3/Troisième Scène: Vorspiel - Der Hexenritt/Witches' Ride/La Chevauchée des Sorcières
Hänsel und Gretel, ZWEITES BILD/ACT 2/DEUXIEME ACTE, Erste Szene/Scene 1/Première Scène: Ein Männlein steht im Walde (Gretel/Hänsel)
Hänsel und Gretel, ZWEITES BILD/ACT 2/DEUXIEME ACTE, Erste Szene/Scene 1/Première Scène: Mein Erbelkörbchen ist voll bis oben! (Gretel/Hänsel)
Hänsel und Gretel, ZWEITES BILD/ACT 2/DEUXIEME ACTE, Erste Szene/Scene 1/Première Scène: Gretel, ich weiss nicht den Weg nicht mehr! (Hänsel/Gretel/Echo)
Hänsel und Gretel, ZWEITES BILD/ACT 2/DEUXIEME ACTE, Zweite Szene/Scene 2/Deuxième Scène: Der kleine Sandman bin ich,st! - Lied des Sandmanns (Sandmann/Hänsel/Gretel)
Hänsel und Gretel, ZWEITES BILD/ACT 2/DEUXIEME ACTE, Zweite Szene/Scene 2/Deuxième Scène: Abends, will ich schlafen gehn (Hänsel/Gretel)
Hänsel und Gretel, ZWEITES BILD/ACT 2/DEUXIEME ACTE, Dritte Szene/Scene 3/Troisième Scène: Traumpantomime/Dream Pantomime/Pantomime de rêve (Orchester)
Hänsel und Gretel, ZWEITES BILD/ACT 2/DEUXIEME ACTE, Dritte Szene/Scene 3/Troisième Scène: Vorspiel (Orchester)
Hänsel und Gretel, DRITTES BILD/ACT 3/TROISIEME ACTE, Erste Szene/Scene 1/Première Scène: Der kleine Taumann heiss'ich (Taumann)
Hänsel und Gretel, DRITTES BILD/ACT 3/TROISIEME ACTE, Erste Szene/Scene 1/Première Scène: Wo bin ich? Wach'ich? (Gretel/Hänsel)
Hänsel und Gretel, DRITTES BILD/ACT 3/TROISIEME ACTE, Zweite Szene/Scene 2/Deuxième Scène: Bleib' stehn! (Gretel/Hänsel)
Hänsel und Gretel, DRITTES BILD/ACT 3/TROISIEME ACTE, Zweite Szene/Scene 2/Deuxième Scène: Wie duftet's von dorten (Gretel/Hänsel)
Hänsel und Gretel, DRITTES BILD/ACT 3/TROISIEME ACTE, Dritte Szene/Scene 3/Troisième Scène: Knusper knusper Knäuschen (Stimme aus dem Haus/Hänsel/Gretel/Kinder)
Hänsel und Gretel, DRITTES BILD/ACT 3/TROISIEME ACTE, Dritte Szene/Scene 3/Troisième Scène: Ich bin Rosina Leckermaul (Hexe/Hänsel/Gretel)
Hänsel und Gretel, DRITTES BILD/ACT 3/TROISIEME ACTE, Dritte Szene/Scene 3/Troisième Scène: Halt! Hokus pokus, Hexenschuss! - Fluch der Hexe (Hexe)
Hänsel und Gretel, DRITTES BILD/ACT 3/TROISIEME ACTE, Dritte Szene/Scene 3/Troisième Scène: Nun Gretel, sei vernünftig und nett (Hexe/Gretel/Hänsel)
Hänsel und Gretel, DRITTES BILD/ACT 3/TROISIEME ACTE, Dritte Szene/Scene 3/Troisième Scène: Hurr hopp hopp hopp (Hexe)
Hänsel und Gretel, DRITTES BILD/ACT 3/TROISIEME ACTE, Dritte Szene/Scene 3/Troisième Scène: Auf' wach' auf, mein Jüngelchen (Hexe/Gretel/Hänsel)
Hänsel und Gretel, DRITTES BILD/ACT 3/TROISIEME ACTE, Dritte Szene/Scene 3/Troisième Scène: Juchhei! Nun ist die Hexe tot - Knusperwalzer (Hänsel/Gretel)
Hänsel und Gretel, DRITTES BILD/ACT 3/TROISIEME ACTE, Vierte Szene/Scene 4/Quatrième Scène: Erlöst, befreit, für alle Zeit! (Kinder/Gretel/Hänsel/Vater)
Hänsel und Gretel, DRITTES BILD/ACT 3/TROISIEME ACTE, Lezte Szene/Final Scene/Scène Finale: Vater! Mutter! (Hänsel/Gretel/Mutter/Vater/Alle)

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