Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is the third--and best--of Furtwängler's recordings of Don Giovanni. The other two--a 1950 performance with Tito Gobbi as the Don, and one from 1954 (both, like this one, from Salzburg, the latter with an almost identical cast)--have long been available. The first need not concern us; it's a sour performance in terrible sound, with Gobbi miscast as the Don. The 1954 performance is almost as dour; Furtwängler obviously sees very little humor in the opera and plays up the cruelty, the darkness, and the inevitability of damnation. His tempos in all three performances are slow, sometimes debilitatingly so (there's no way to get through this "Il mio tesoro" without sounding breathless), but it would be dishonest to say
that his outlook does not pack a punch.
This "newly discovered" recording, in pretty good sound, is from 1953, and Furtwängler's cast is almost entirely up to the conductor's often difficult demands. Elisabeth Grümmer's Donna Anna is ravishing--sad, scared, mad--and she somehow manages "Non mi dir" at Furtwängler's introspective tempo (only Karajan, with Janowitz, takes it more slowly). Her soft singing is lovely. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf bites into Donna Elvira with élan, singing better here than a year later, and Erna Berger's Zerlina, though not sounding very young, pours out pretty tone after pretty tone.
Walter Berry's Masetto is knowing and sarcastic--easy to hear when each syllable is an event--and Raffaele Arié's Commendatore is properly gloomy, and very loud. The world seems to like Anton Dermota (Ottavio) better than I do in general; every time he sings on this recording I think of how much more elegantly other tenors--Simoneau, Burrowes, McCormack--handle the role and round the notes. Otto Edelmann's Leporello is a bitter pill: the Catalog aria shlumps along in a perpetual snarl. As the Don, the stunning Cesare Siepi is just that--exquisitely oily, sure of himself, tonally accurate, smooth and silky, and vicious to the end.
This is one way to approach this opera, and if it's your cup of tea, it's certainly better than the Klemperer or late ('87/DG) Karajan. And both Elisabeths and Siepi are just about perfect.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Don Giovanni, K 527 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Elisabeth Grümmer (Soprano),
Raphäel Arié (Bass),
Cesare Siepi (Baritone),
Walter Berry (Bass),
Erna Berger (Soprano),
Otto Edelmann (Bass),
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (Soprano),
Anton Dermota (Tenor)
Vienna State Opera Chorus,
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1787; Prague
Date of Recording: 07/27/1953
Venue: Live Salzburg Festival, Austria
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