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Leo FALL (1873-1925)
Paroli or Frau Denise, comic opera in one act with dialogue (1902)
Anke Krabbe (soprano) - Denise, Andrea Bönig (alto) - Marquise von Gaillardière, Jörg Dürmüller (tenor) - Jean, Michael Roider (tenor) - Josef Drechsler, Ralf Lukas (baritone) - Marquis von Gaillardière, Henning Freiberg - narrator
WDR Rundfunkchor Köln
WDR Rundfunkorchester Köln/Axel Kober
rec. Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany, 2012
CPO 777 899-2 [51:54]

Leo Fall’s compositional period fell at the end of the Strauss-Millöcker romantic era and coincided with the advent of ‘The Musical’ genre promoted by Lehár, Jones and Porter. To my ears his style anticipates certain new musical directions that stage shows were by 1900 starting to take. Fall is best known for The Dollar Princess (1907) and Madame Pompadour (1922) (review) and the Electrola (EMI) recordings brought them to a wide audience. Fall came from a Berlin musical family where his father had been comfortably employed as a Royal Military bandmaster. Leo was sent to the Vienna Conservatoire to study composition but this he abandoned when aged nineteen and he returned to Berlin to help the family in writing opera as a lucrative, combined family effort.

Fall’s Paroli - this obscure short comic opera - is more a chamber work than an operetta. It has been little heard of so a study of this composition is made all the more interesting. On a first hearing, the music by this 29-year-old composer is not so easily assimilated as a stage show and it is only on repeat listening that one can form more definite opinions. We find that the composer has worked sensitively to provide a good opening chorus and finale with horn motif. Also notable is the strong melody in Denise’s song (No. 2), where Anke Krabbe delights with her agility and endearing timbre. Ralf Lukas makes a splendid Marquis in his duet with Denise (No. 5). These numbers are of immediate appeal. In the score there are a few instances (as in Jean and Denise’s duet) where there seems to be a lull in the compositional framework. On a closer study one realizes that such unexpected turns in the vocal line follow a change of mood described in the lyrics. That said I find that Fall’s orchestration rarely achieves anything like a multi-layered rich tutti. His harmonization is occasionally thin and the accompaniment is conveniently picked up by isolated sections of the orchestra. Axel Kober achieves a high level of success nevertheless with his conducting, and the orchestra responds energetically throughout.

The soloists are strong especially in their superbly delivered Terzette. It is difficult to single out individual singers for praise with such limited exposure on this short disc: sadly the playing time of the score’s music is limited to 43 minutes. The duets and ensembles are nicely balanced both in colour and strength. The dialogue is individually tracked and so can easily be omitted if one doesn’t understand German.

The recording balance is good and bathed in the warm acoustic of Cologne’s Philharmonie hall. The booklet notes are in German and English. It's a shame that the characters are not shown in the track-listing. It is also unfortunate that Michael Roider’s photograph is captioned with the soprano’s name.

Earlier Fall operetta issues from CPO include Der Fidele Bauer and Madame Pompadour. In recent years these have been joined by a Naxos recording of The Rose of Stambul (review review) and an Arthaus DVD of Die Dollarprinzessin (review)

Raymond J Walker



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