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J. Strauss Jr.: Die Fledermaus / Karajan, Schwarzkopf

Release Date: 11/17/2009 
Label:  Warner Classics   Catalog #: 66844   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Strauss Jr.
Performer:  Karl DönchRudolf ChristNicolai GeddaLuise Martini,   ... 
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia ChorusPhilharmonia Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Mono 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Texts are included on a CD-ROM.

One is struck by the animation of the production. The musical performance is both polished and exuberant. It is astonishing what precision Karajan achieves, not only from his singers but from the Philharmonia players.

So soon after reviewing Karajan's live Vienna State Opera recording of Fledermaus from RCA (7/99) - lively but with acres of dialogue and inevitably flawed - it has been a special joy to return to this classic set, the aptest of candidates for EMI's Great Recordings of the Century. The contrasts between the new CD transfer and EMI's previous one may be relatively subtle, but they make a great difference, so that one completely forgets that this is in mono,
Read more not stereo. Above all, this time the extra sense of presence and space makes for a clearer separation of the voices, well-forward in the manner of EMI's recordings in the mid-1950s.

In his note, RO quotes Schwarzkopf on what Karajan (and her husband, Walter Legge, as producer) were seeking to bring out: 'grit, dash, pep'. That may sound as though the result is serious rather than comic, but not at all so. What above all has struck me afresh at this latest hearing is the animation of the production. The dialogue is so strongly characterized and so brilliantly acted, with each character so sharply defined, that even the most determined non-German-speaker will not only follow but be charmed by it.

Legge's editing down of the dialogue was very much part of his concept, alongside the immaculate, inspired casting of soloists. The very first confrontation between Streich as the parlourmaid, Adele, and Schwarzkopf as Rosalinde, her mistress, is delicious, with the characters so vividly heightened. So it is throughout the set. One may question the choice of a tenor Orlofsky, but Karajan and Legge were following the example of Max Reinhardt in his famous Berlin production of 1929, and Rudolf Christ in cabaret style presents a wonderfully convincing portrait of an effete, slightly tipsy nobleman. As for the others, it would be hard to imagine more compelling portraits than these, consistently reflecting Legge's genius in assembling his team.

The musical performance, like the deft speaking of the dialogue, is both polished and exuberant. It is astonishing what precision Karajan achieves in his moulding of Viennese rubato, not only from his singers but from the Philharmonia players. Unlike the previous CD incarnation this one offers a complete libretto and translation. The dialogue is tracked separately, but I cannot imagine anyone wanting to omit it when it adds so much - very economically in time - to the total joy of the experience.

-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [10/1999] Reviewing earlier release
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Works on This Recording

Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss Jr.
Performer:  Karl Dönch (Baritone), Rudolf Christ (Tenor), Nicolai Gedda (Tenor),
Luise Martini (Spoken Vocals), Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (Soprano), Rita Streich (Soprano),
Erich Kunz (Baritone), Helmut Krebs (Tenor), Franz Böheim (Spoken Vocals)
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Chorus,  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 04/1955 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 

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