WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Krenek: Karl V, Kehraus Um St. Stephan / Koenigs, Axelrod

Krenek / Wiener Symphoniker / Koenigs
Release Date: 09/29/2009 
Label:  Capriccio Records   Catalog #: 9001  
Composer:  Ernst Krenek
Performer:  Alexander MayrMatthias KlinkDietrich HenschelCassandra McConnell,   ... 
Conductor:  Lothar KoenigsJohn Axelrod
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Symphony OrchestraCamerata Silesia SingersVorarlberg Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews


Karl V.

Karl V. – Dietrich Henschel
Juana – Chariklia Mavropoulou
Eleonore – Nicola Beller-Carbone
Ferdinand – Hubert Francis
Isabella – Cassandra McConnell
Juan de Regla – Moritz Führmann
Henri Mathys – Andreas Herrmann
Francisco Borgia – Christoph Homberger
Franz I. – Matthias Klink
Frangipani – Alexander Mayr
Papst Clemens VII. – Christoph Homberger

Sängerensemble der Stadt Katowice "Camerata Silesia"
Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Lothar Koenigs, conductor

Uwe Eric Laufenberg, stage director
Gisbert Jäkel, set design Read more /> Antje Sternberg, costumes Wolfgang Göbbel, light design

Filmed at the Bregenzer Festspiele, 2008

Kehraus um St. Stephan

Othmar Brandstetter – Roman Sadnik
Sebastian Kundrather – Albert Pesendorfer
Ferdinand – Christian Drescher
Maria – Andrea Bogner
Alfred Koppreiter – Sebastian Holecek
Mortiz Fekete – Michael Kraus
Emmerich von Kereszthely – Wolfgang Gratschmaier
Elisabeth – Elisabeth Flechl
Nora Rittinghaus – Elisabeth Wolfbauer
Herr Kabulke – Lars Woldt
Oberwachmann Sachsl – Gerhard Ernst

Vorarlberg Symphony Orchestra
John Axelrod, conductor

Michael Scheidl, stage director
Nora Scheidl, set and costume design
Markus Holdermann, light design

Filmed at the Bregenzer Festspiele, 2008

Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo 2.0 / Dolby Digital 5.1 (Karl V only)
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Menu languages: German, English, French
Subtitles: German, English, French
Running time: 140 mins (Karl V) / 148 mins (St. Stephan)
No. of DVDs: 2

R E V I E W:


KRENEK Karl V. 1 Kehraus um St. Stephan. 2 Lothar Koenigs, cond; 1 Dietrich Henschel (Karl V); 1 Nicola Beller-Carbone (Eleonore, his sister); 1 Moritz Führmann ( Juan de Regla, his confessor); 1 Matthias Klink (King Francis I of France); 1 Christoph Homberger (Francisco Borgia, a Jesuit); 1 Vienna SO; 1 Camerata Silesia. 1 John Axelrod, cond; 2 Roman Sadnik (Othmar); 2 Elisabeth Flechl (Elisabeth); 2 Albert Pesendorfer (Sebastian); 2 Sebastian Holecek (Alfred); 2 Vorarlberg SO 2 CAPRICCIO 9001 (2 DVDs: 310:00)

Karl V is Holy Roman Emperor (1519-1558) Charles V. Karl V is a blockbuster of an opera: historical drama, personal tragedy, religious tract, political harangue, and philosophical treatise. Of more normal operatic pastimes, it contains one love scene—of about a minute’s duration—one natural death (Charles’s), and some ten million deaths in his “Holy Wars.” If that’s not enough to put you off, it is written in Krenek’s personal brand of serialism, which he had previously rejected. Composed for Clemens Krauss and the Vienna Staastoper, it put the Austrians off, even before Hitler; the 1934 premiere was scrapped, and Krenek soon fled to America. The most surprising thing about it is that it all works, giving us a fascinating, thought-provoking operatic experience.

Charles has resigned the throne and—fearing heavenly judgment—is seeking redemption from his confessor. His previous life passes before us, including many of the central figures of early 16th-century Europe: Martin Luther, Pope Clement VII, Ferdinand I of Austria (Charles’s brother and successor), Moritz of Saxony, as well as those in the head note. Krenek’s position is ambiguous; he attacks every type of fanaticism and extremism, religious and political, and yet seems to support Charles’s final pleas for mercy.

Video productions are usually advantageous for lesser-known operas: with a Traviata or Walküre , we have ideal productions in our minds, so a director or scenic designer may ruin it for us. We approach a Krenek opera with fewer preconceptions, but this Karl V upsets anyway. This production portrays him as a teacher in a schoolroom, surrounded by 30- and 40-year old “boys” in short pants and knickers, who throw spitballs and paper airplanes when his back is turned—an unpromising beginning for a serious religious and political drama. Eventually the schoolboys fade into the background, replaced by soldiers, some in Gestapo uniforms. The first scene of act II (initially more spoken than sung) takes place at Charles’s deathbed, and it is grippingly staged. Each of the major players gets to expound on his or her world view, and arguments rage to the end. The only voices of reason are the confessor and Charles’s sister. One may consider Charles to be mad (as Pope Clement suggests) like his mother, the “Juana la Loca” of Menotti’s opera. He does have moments of reason, but they often dissolve into torrents of rage.

The music is surprisingly lyrical for serial writing, and the singers do well with it. The acting is even stronger: Homberger is spectacular, portraying the Jesuit as a man who speaks with a horrendous stutter when being reasonable but is clear as a bell when at the height of fanaticism. Beller-Carbone is also superb in a difficult role, singing smoothly even while Eleonore is being gang-raped by a group of soldiers. Henschel manages rather than conquers the demanding but unrewarding title role, which needs vocal and histrionic power beyond what he can deliver. In the end, the opera’s intellectual complexity detracts from the musical experience; there is just too much going on simultaneously, as we try to follow each character’s philosophical argument and attempt to absorb what Krenek is getting at. Karl V belongs in a small, select company with Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler and Pfitzner’s Palestrina . Those two are more successful, not just for their powerful scores, but because each tackles only half of the problems of Karl V : the former sociological and political, the latter personal and religious.

This video production, from a 2008 performance at the Bregenz Festival, is technically satisfactory. For me, its key advantage over two excellent audio recordings ( Fanfare 24:4 and 25:3) is its English subtitles: Theo Adam and Gerd Albrecht on Orfeo have only the German libretto, while David Pittman-Jennings and Marc Soustrot on MDG have none. Karl V has always been cut; Krenek was once quoted as referring to its nearly four-hour length, but these 142 minutes are about what appears on MDG and much more than on Orfeo.

Kehraus um St. Stephan (“Last Dance around St. Stephens”) is called a satire with music, but it is a satire with a heart of gold—well, gold-plated, at least. The New Grove says Krenek “became appalled at the dehumanizing effects of mass production, commercialization, and the vulgarizing of politics after 1914.” Which is what this 1930 opera is about. Although only 30, this was his ninth opera, and he had already achieved a triumphant international success with Jonny spielt auf in 1927. This one deals with disillusionment and hypocrisy in Vienna after World War I. In operetta fashion, the good guys and the bad ones could be wearing white and black hats, and much sympathy is expressed for the girl who gets caught in the mill, a courtesan with a heart of gold. The bad prosper as the good suffer, turning the tables at the final curtain. The satire is almost too direct to deserve the name, but individual characters ring true: these are believable people struggling with life.

If Krenek’s serialism in Karl V is surprisingly easy on the ears, this fully tonal writing is edgy and harsh. A bit of that is the less-than-international-standards cast, all of whom sing gamely and act well enough. The local orchestra manages ably. The production—on a miniscule stage—is simplicity itself, with almost no scenery and a few simple props, all of which suit the opera well. This is one of Krenek’s minor efforts; one might never hear it but for the festival performance of its distant cousin Karl V . Note that this was not a double bill: both are full-evening works (in separate theaters), the satire running a few minutes longer than the (cut) grand opera. Production quality is unexceptional; do not expect dazzling video or stunning sound. These DVDs are primarily of repertoire interest.

FANFARE: James H. North
Read less

Works on This Recording

Karl V, Op. 73 by Ernst Krenek
Performer:  Alexander Mayr (Voice), Matthias Klink (Tenor), Dietrich Henschel (Baritone),
Cassandra McConnell (Voice), Chariklia Mavropoulou (Mezzo Soprano), Hubert Francis (Tenor),
Nicola Beller-Carbone (Voice)
Conductor:  Lothar Koenigs
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Symphony Orchestra,  Camerata Silesia Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Vienna, Austria 
Kehraus Um St. Stephan by Ernst Krenek
Performer:  Andrea Bogner (Soprano), Albert Pesendorfer (Bass), Roman Sadnik (Tenor),
Christian Drescher (Voice), Sebastian Holecek (Baritone), Elisabeth Flechl (Soprano),
Wolfgang Gratschmaier (Voice)
Conductor:  John Axelrod
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vorarlberg Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title