Notes and Editorial Reviews
It is an
embarasse de riches for Mozart devotees to have this set released concurrently with Decca's similarly legendary 1955 recording with Erich Kleiber and the same orchestra. They do not come into direct comparison as Karajan wallops away all the recitatives (sensible to my mind) whilst Decca's is almost complete to the letter. Still, 'Figaro' has always been a magnificent battleground for singers and in both sets we have the cream of Mozartian singing in the 1950's.
Erich Kunz's 'Figaro' is unsurpassed, his characterization is second to none and although Siepi is a match to him in diction, Kunz carries all before him in a display of superb Mozartian singing. One only needs to turn to 'Non piu' andrai, the
classic conclusion to that remarkable First Act to listen to Kunz in full flow. The young Schwarzkopf is also mercurially vivid although Lisa della Casa on the Decca set is altogether superior, that radiant voice is indeed one of the greatest Countesses ever. Schwarzkopf's 'Porgi amor' reveals her lack of Italianate command and in some other numbers she is also slightly Germanic but otherwise it is a definitive interpretation especially in the emotional 'Dove sono', another miracle of mixed emotions in Mozartian opera.
George London's Count is aristocratic and demeaning, what he lacks in inveterate charm he makes up for in superb singing although his occasional exclamations may seem slightly studious, one must turn to Poell for a really superb Count. Sena Jurinac's Cherubino is also winningly done; this is indeed a delightful role to sing! I've kept the ace of this set till last and that is Irmgard Seefried Susanna, one may argue that this is the greatest Susanna of all time. Such is the emotional depth behind Seefried's singing that she despatches Gueden's role on our selected comparison set with ease, this is one of the greatest Mozartian roles ever recorded.
And at the centre of all this we have Herbert von Karajan, a demoniac in the very best sense of the word, coaxing his singers to exalted heights and conducting the orchestra with real passion (just sample the overture). EMI's reissue features some intriguing studio photographs and a superb essay by Richard Osborne, surely must-haves for the Karajan devotee. You may want to sample before buying but this 'Nozze' is definitely an essential part of the discography where this opera is concerned alongside Kleiber's. The sound is adequate; typical early 50's EMI although it has been somewhat improved since its last reincarnation.
-- Gerald Fenech, MusicWeb International [11/1999]
Reviewing earlier issue
Works on This Recording
Le nozze di Figaro, K 492 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Irmgard Seefried (Soprano),
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (Soprano),
Erich Kunz (Baritone),
Marjan Rus (Bass),
Hilde Czeska (Soprano),
Rosl Schwaiger (Soprano),
George London (Bass Baritone),
Anny Felbermayer (Soprano),
Erich Majkut (Tenor),
Wilhelm Felden (Bass),
Elisabeth Höngen (Mezzo Soprano),
Sena Jurinac (Soprano)
Herbert von Karajan
Vienna State Opera Chorus,
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1786; Vienna, Austria
Date of Recording: 1950
Venue: Music Society Hall, Vienna, Austria
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