Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a 2 CD set with a bonus CD-Rom containing a libretto and synopsis.
In October 1980 1 reviewed the 1976 Acanta recording of Zar und Zimmermann under Heinz Wallberg. At the time I said that I had not been able to make comparisons with the earlier (1966) set from EMI Electrola—now distributed by Conifer—from which excerpts were at one time available here (HMV HQS1059, 2/67—nla). Well, here is my chance. And I must say that it was a wise precaution to alert readers to the existence of this rival version, since I find that it still comes across exceedingly well.
The most immediately apparent contrast is, of course, in the recorded sound. The Electrola has been cut at a higher level—at any rate in
the musical numbers, though less so in the dialogue— and has a noticeably more reverberant sound. It makes, I suppose, for a rather more exciting if less polished effect than the much cleaner Acanta sound. The orchestral ensemble—and later the vocal ensemble too—also seems at times just a shade less precise than in the Acanta. All this, though, is part and parcel of the fact that the Acanta version seems more concerned with musical refinement, while the Electrola opts for the livelier, more characterful approach. Even though the conductor Robert Heger was almost 80 when he conducted this recording, it is he rather than Heinz Wallberg for Acanta who achieves the more virile account of the score.
The contrasts of approach manifest themselves likewise in the singers. In the key bass role of the comic Bfirgermeister, Van Bett, it is Karl Ridderbusch for Acanta who produces the smoother vocalizing, while Gottlob Frick for Electrola is the fruitier, more overtly comic (at the words "ich bin em n zweiter Salomo" in the celebrated "0 sancta justicia", for instance). Let me add that both Frick and Ridderbusch are absolutely magnificent, and no praise could be too high for the way in which each acquits himself—both interpretations classics in slightly different ways.
Similar comparisons apply elsewhere in the cast. When I reviewed the Acanta set I mentioned that Lucia Popp didn't altogether convey the youthfulness one might expect in Marie, the Biirgermeister's niece, and certainly Erika Koth is much more the part in this respect. On the other hand, Koth cannot match Popp for sheer beauty of sound. And in the role of the Marquis de Chateauneuf, Krenn is perhaps the more correct but somewhat colourless compared with the more expressive and virile Gedda in the song of farewell to his Flanders maiden.
In the two title roles there is much greater similarity between the two recordings. Adalbert Kraus (for Acanta) and Peter Schreier (for Electrola) are both most worthy carpenters (Schreier blending well with Frick in their Act 1 duet), while the Tsar in both sets is Hermann Prey. The idiosyncracies of his voice are perhaps more noticeable in the 1966 recording in which he seems generally less at ease than in the later version, though by 1976 he seems to have been able to accommodate the occasional high note less cleanly.
My own preference would, I feel, be for the Electrola set, which seems to have the warmer heart, the greater virility. Moreover, the occasional blemish that I reported in the Acanta pressings sent for review is totally absent in those from Electrola. But I could not suggest that either set is really less than first rate. Moreover, repeated hearing of the score makes it easy to understand how the Germans, brought up on the piece, continue to love it so much. Shallow Lortzing's talent may have been, but to what delightful effect he used it!
-- A.M.L., Gramophone [3/1982]
Works on This Recording
Zar und Zimmermann by Albert Lortzing
Siegfried Vogel (Bass),
Fred Teschler (Bass),
Peter Schreier (Tenor),
Hermann Prey (Baritone),
Erika Köth (Soprano),
Nicolai Gedda (Tenor),
Gottlob Frick (Bass),
Annelies Burmeister (Mezzo soprano)
Leipzig Radio Chorus
Written: 1837; Germany
Date of Recording: 1965
Venue: Lukaskirche, Dresden
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