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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Overtures: Die Entführung aus dem Serail; Die Zauberflöte; Così fan tutte; Le nozze di Figaro; Don Giovanni; Der Schauspieldirektor
Die Entführung aus dem Serail [108:16]
Konstanze: Wilma Lipp (soprano)
Blonde: Emmy Loose (soprano)
Belmonte: Walther Ludwig (tenor)
Pedrillo: Peter Klein (tenor)
Bassa Selim: Heinz Woester (speaker)
Osmin: Endré Koréh (bass)
Wiener Staatsopernchor
London Symphony Orchestra (overtures), Wiener Philharmoniker/Josef Krips
rec. 1950s, mono
ELOQUENCE 480 7191 [71:31 + 71:16]

Krips was principal conductor of the LSO from 1950–54 and of course the supreme exponent of Viennese-style Mozart, typified by his classic 1955 recording of Don Giovanni and it is interesting to see how he modified his interpretative stance in the Kingsway Hall, London; comparison of the two performances of the Entführung overture reveals that he is much fleeter and lighter with the VPO in the complete recording, as if signalling that this is the bustling curtain-up to a crowd-pleasing Singspiel, whereas with the LSO his treatment is much grander; this is a “concert number”, not a mood-setter. The Vienna winds are more astringent than their smoother London counterparts, yet both approaches are equally enjoyable. The statelier mood is maintained throughout the London recordings yet the overtures are never ponderous.

This was the first nearly complete recording of Die Entführung; and the first to be issued by Decca on LP. It is nearly complete in that it includes some of the spoken recitative, makes a few internal cuts, common in stage performances of that era, and “Ich baue ganz” is replaced by “Wenn der Freude Tränen fliessen”, a less challenging option for the principal tenor.

The elegant, spirited orchestral playing is not really matched by equally stylish singing. The lead tenors are distinctive of timbre: Ludwig is grainy and robust, but both singers, especially Peter Klein are marked with that peculiar throatiness that sometimes afflicts Germanic tenors — a sound completely absent in Fritz Wunderlich’s tone. Wilma Lipp has a sweet, tweety soprano, accurate but a tad wearing and her voice is very similar to Emmy Loose’s, who, to quote William Mann, is given to “chirping and pecking” at her notes. Neither is unattractive but the effect of having two essentially soubrette voices is rather twee. “Traurigkeit” is touching but more body in the voice would be welcome. “Marten alle Arten” is fearlessly negotiated within the limitations of a small voice. The Osmin seems to have the right voice but then cannot manage the coloratura, has an odd habit of crooning his high notes and is unable to do more than groan the low A in “Ho, wie will ich triumphieren”. His characterisation, too, is generally too jolly and sentimental, lacking the core of menace required.

Inevitably the early 50’s sound is thin, glaring mono with the voices very forward and the orchestra quite recessed and some faint pre-echo in the opera, but there is plenty of clarity and the playing is stylish and spritely, such that the ear is still beguiled.

Krips remade this opera in stereo in 1966 with the same orchestra and a rather starrier cast, every one of whom, I think, is superior to their counterparts here, even if I am in a minority in finding Gedda’s tone pinched – but he is in clear, youthful voice. Frick is definitely an improvement over Koréh, both tenors are superior and both Rothenberger and the young Lucia Popp are more clearly differentiated, more accomplished and lovelier of voice than their earlier equivalents. I have never found any recording entirely satisfactory: despite the excellence of individual performances in some key recordings, there is always some egregious flaw, Thus, for example, Kurt Moll’s Osmin for Böhm is vocally superlative if a little lacking in humour, but Schreier’s constricted Belmonte disqualifies the whole proceedings for me; Robert Lloyd and Stuart Burrows are similarly admirable for Colin Davis but, as is so often the case, there are weaknesses on the distaff side of the casting; this applies equally to Jochum’s and Beecham’s recordings. There has never been a better Belmonte than Wunderlich but his co-singers do not match his achievement, although the cool and elegant Léopold Simoneau for Beecham comes closest. I much enjoy recordings by Maag and Weil but Stich-Randall is defeated by her big aria in the former; Studer is better in the latter but not especially distinguished. Fricsay’s conducting is preternaturally “period” in its spring and clarity, years before the movement arrived and he, too, has a very adept, but not very charismatic cast; ultimately, very few, if any, casts have consistently risen to the demands of some of the most difficult vocal music Mozart ever penned and Krips’ recording evinces the usual admixture of strengths and weaknesses, while still providing considerable pleasure.

On balance, if you want Krips conducting this opera, his second, stereo version is preferable and perhaps a first choice overall – furthermore, the first, 1989 CD issue comes with a physical German-English libretto and the newer, 2010 Warner Classics one has it on a “bonus disc”.

Ralph Moore



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