This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is an antidote, perhaps too strong a one, to the swift, period-instrument versions to which we have been growing accustomed. Furtwangler’s reading is deliberate, spiritually inclined, romantic in the extreme with long rallentandos at cadential points, stretching his singers to their limits yet, paradoxically, never becoming heavy because of the translucency of the playing. Whether his approach is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ seems irrelevant in the light, and that is the right word, of the conductor’s deep empathy with the depth and sincerity of the score’s serious side – listen to the sense of conviction in the Priests’ chorus (second disc, track 17). His reading also leaves room for the orchestra, intricately rehearsed, to project the details
in the score, as for instance, the pizzicato underlying the announcement of the three Boys, or the marcato in the upward string figure accompanying the second half of “In diesen heil’gen Hallen”. And would one really ask for a faster tempo for “Bei Mannern” when Furtwangler’s allows his Pamina and Papageno to sing it with such breadth and warmth?
And what a Pamina and Papageno we have here. Seefried and Kunz took those roles in the roughly contemporaneous EMI recording (November 1950) under Karajan (1/89), but there they were in a studio environment and not permitted any dialogue. Here, in the context of a live performance at the Salzburg Festival, their interpretations are that much more involving. Kunz, in particular, benefits; his is an endearing, light, smiling, unforced account of the birdcatcher’s words (delivered in an echt Viennese accent) and music. It is one of the most persuasive performances of Papageno on disc. Seefried’s appeal in her role is well-known, and she is here at her most glowing and fervent, even managing the conductor’s very slow speed for her G minor aria. This being virtually the Vienna cast of the day, Dermota is again her Tamino, so smooth and fluent, yet characterful in his traversal of the part, observing all the Mozart verities, even when sorely pressed by his conductor to maintain his line. What Innigkeit he brings to the scene with Pamina before the trials (third disc, track 3)!
Lipp’s Queen of Night is not quite as fluent as for Karajan in the studio, with moments of variable pitch in her second aria. Greindl, Salzburg’s Sarastro over many years, also has his intonation problems, but presents a noble, grave portrait, very much in keeping with, and trained to, his conductor’s ideas. Klein’s Monostatos is suitably vicious. We are consoled for a somewhat squally trio of Ladies by the ethereal purity and beauty of the Boys, led by the young Steffek.
The sound is on a par with the Furtwangler/EMI Fidelio (12/93) of the previous year, which means occasional distortion in the soprano voices, a few stage noises and a deal of applause at the end of numbers. However, considering this radio tape is not the original (which was destroyed) but one privately made and in the collection of the conductor’s widow, the sound is truly remarkable. Even in those early days, Austrian Radio achieved an excellent balance between stage and pit. As with Fidelio, we are once more present at a historic occasion, and share a tradition virtually lost today. It won’t be anyone’s first choice, yet I would put aside many more recent recordings in favour of this one. I even prefer it to the classic 1937-8 Beecham and 1964 Klemperer versions (EMI, Nimbus and Pearl, 3/90 and 7/89 respectively), set in the same mould, simply because it is live and includes dialogue, without which any Zauberflote is, for me, incomplete.
-- Alan Blyth, Gramophone [1/1996]
Works on This Recording
Die Zauberflöte, K 620 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Sieglinde Wagner (Mezzo Soprano),
Friedl Meusburger (Mezzo Soprano),
Erich Kunz (Baritone),
Anton Dermota (Tenor),
Josef Greindl (Bass),
Fred Liewehr (Bass),
Paul Schöffler (Bass Baritone),
Franz Höbling (Tenor),
Christel Goltz (Soprano),
Margherita Kenney (Soprano),
Edith Oravez (Soprano),
Peter Klein (Tenor),
Hannelore Steffek (Soprano),
Luise Leitner (Soprano),
Hans Beirer (Tenor),
Franz Bierbach (Bass),
Irmgard Seefried (Soprano),
Wilma Lipp (Soprano)
Vienna State Opera Chorus,
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1791; Vienna, Austria
Date of Recording: 08/06/1951
Venue: Live Felsenreitshcule, Salzburg, Austria
Length: 175 Minutes 15 Secs.
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