Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
Graf Peter Homonay – Alfred Poell (baritone)
Conte Carnero – Karl Dönch (baritone)
Sándor Barinkay – Julius Patzak (tenor)
Kálman Zsupán – Kurt Preger (baritone)
Arsena – Emmy Loose (soprano)
Mirabella – Steffi Leverenz (contralto)
Ottokar – August Jaresch (tenor)
Czipra – Rosette Anday (soprano)
Saffi – Hilde Zadek (soprano)
Pali – Franz Bierback (bass)
Wiener Staatsopernchor, Wiener Philharmoniker / Clemens Krauss
rec. Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna, April 1951
Detailed synopsis enclosed
ELOQUENCE 482 7371 [55:28 + 40:31]
In the early years of the LP there were some excellent operetta recordings issued by Decca and Columbia. Produced by Walter Legge and with the Philharmonia Chorus and Orchestra, Columbia released two Lehár operettas and four Strauss works. Conductor of all, except Die Fledermaus, was the eminent Otto Ackermann. Almost simultaneously, in fact somewhat earlier, Clemens Krauss recorded the two probably greatest Strauss operettas, Die Fledermaus and Der Zigeunerbaron with the Vienna Philharmonic and the State Opera Chorus. Few conductors knew the Strauss idiom better than Krauss, having led the New Year’s Day concerts from 1939 until his death fifteen years later. He handpicked suitable singers from Vienna State opera roster of artists, all of them well steeped in the tradition. Ackermann’s soloists were also Viennese trained, apart from Nicolai Gedda who knew the idiom anyway. The biggest difference was that Krauss recorded only the musical numbers, while Ackermann/Legge also included some spoken dialogue, albeit heavily foreshortened. Today it can be regretted that Krauss excluded the dialogue, since so much of the story becomes incomprehensible without it. For this reissue Eloquence have provided a very comprehensive synopsis which explains in detail what happens – something to be grateful for. Also it has to be reported that the Decca sound in those days was not quite in the forefront – as it became some years later with the arrival of Stereo and the so called Sonic Stage principle, which was a vital reason why Solti/Culshaw’s Ring was such a success. The sound on this Zigeunerbaron is rather thin, even though there is some brilliance, and the Vienna strings are delicious – but still undernourished compared to the Ackermann set. Both conductors do have a natural instinct for the Viennese tradition, and this particular operetta, taking place not in Vienna but in Hungary, is equally close to them, Ackermann being born in Romania.
Of the principal soloists Julius Patzak was a little past his best and his voice was never a very powerful instrument, but he had the style inherent and few singers could turn a Viennese phrase so elegantly and charmingly as he did – obvious not least in his recordings of Viennese popular songs. Gedda on the Ackermann set was the more brilliant singer – even more so in the stereo remake from around 1970. Kurt Preger as the pip-breeder Zsupán is suitably comic but also sings well without distorting the music. Erich Kunz for Ackermann still has more Viennese charm. Karl Dönch and Alfred Poell are both well versed in this idiom, in particular the former. Of the ladies Emmy Loose as Arsena is superb with her crystal clear coloratura soprano and Hilde Zadek is a very good Saffi, though Schwarzkopf for Ackermann has a stronger personality. No one can deny, however, that she and Patzak match each other wonderfully well in the duet Wer uns getraut, sung seductively slow. Rosette Anday, Hungarian by descent is a good Czipra, the gypsy woman – sounding elderly, which is in line with the role.
Forced to make a choice I would still opt for Ackermann, partly for including some spoken dialogue but also for some more personality and better recording. But the Krauss recording is an established classic and the real aficionados need both.