Notes and Editorial Reviews
Every aspect of the performance has acquired confidence and style and operatic personality...Record collectors may be drawn to the new Philips version by Frederica von Stade's Octavian, a lovely reading by a favourite young mezzo. It is worth hearing on disc, particularly in the context of the remaining principals with whom Miss von Stade sings scrupulously, as if she were the viola in a great string quartet.
Recordings of Der Rosenkavalier come and go with the years, sometimes all too quickly nowadays. Most of them have manifested numerous virtues, but not enough to compete with the three sets that look like remaining in the catalogue: the brilliant, scrupulously pro Frederica von Stade as Octavian [photo Phonogram duced Decca/Solti, the refurbished, always enchanting HMV/Karajan, and the earliest LP set conducted by Kleiber senior for Decca (mono 4BB115-8, 6/72), to which must be added the pre-war highlights in extenso conducted by Robert Heger for HMV, with Lotte Lehmann, Elisabeth Schumann and Richard Mayr leading a now legendary cast, still available on LP transfer (World Records mono SHI8I-2, 12/73).
The new Philips contender began life with a production in Houston, Texas. Its producer (John Cox from Glyndebourne), conductor, Marschallin, Octavian, Sophie, Ochs, and Faninal (maybe others), moved eastward to the Holland Festival where I saw the production in June 1976. It was musically tentative and abbreviated, wayward but interesting to watch, the principal roles promising yet unfulfilled. How encouraging to hear the records resulting from that Holland production. Every aspect of the performance has acquired confidence and style and operatic personality. It is now, like the two Decca sets, unlike the Karajan, quite complete (the deleted CBS/Bernstein set was also cut).
Record collectors may be drawn to the new Philips version by Frederica von Stade's Octavian, a lovely reading by a favourite young mezzo. It is worth hearing on disc, particularly in the context of the remaining principals with whom Miss von Stade sings scrupulously, as if she were the viola in a great string quartet. In the later stages of Act 1, with the Marschallin, this Octavian counters tenderness with explosive passion and resentment, her sustained, smooth singing is admirably full and intense, her badinage with Sophie after the Rose Ceremony perfectly delightful, her pretended tipsiness in the Supper Scene lovely to hear as well as comic. In the final Trio it isvon Stade, as much as either of her colleagues, who holds the ensemble together. It is a musicianly and spirited interpretation.
Gramophone, August, 1977 [Review of the original Philips release.]
Richard Strauss, undoubtedly one of the most famous musical figures to have emerged from Germany, enjoyed early success both as a conductor and composer. Having developed the symphonic poem to an unsurpassed level of expressiveness, he went on to achieve great success with a string of notable operas – of which Der Rosenkavalier, presented on this disc, is his best known.
Set in Vienna during the early years of the Empress Maria Theresa’s reign, the work takes the form of a comedy in three acts, set to an original German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. It bears a strong resemblance in terms of plot to Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro as well as Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and is written in a very different vein to Strauss’s preceding avant-gardist creations Salome and Elektra – something for which the composer, appearing to have succumbed to popular taste, was heavily criticised.
But this is a petty observation: Strauss’s combining of overt parody with psychological insight into matters of both the head and heart – not to mention the torments of growing up and the terrors of growing old – makes it a highly sophisticated work that stands firmly on a par with Mozart’s and Wagner’s. Featuring a superb cast of internationally renowned singers, this recording does full justice to the intricate and sublimely beautiful quality of Strauss’s writing – making it clear to the listener why Der Rosenkavalier has become one of the most successful operas of all time.
• Recorded in 1976 at the Holland Festival.
• Includes booklet notes and opera synopsis.
• Complete libretto downloadable at www.brilliantoperacollection.com.