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Eduard KÜNNEKE (1885 – 1953)
Herz über Bord, Operetta in 4 Acts, Op. 33 (1935)
Lilli – Annika Boos (soprano)
Gwendolin – Linda Hergarten (soprano)
Hans – Martin Koch (tenor)
Albert – Julian Schulzki (baritone)
Kapitän – Martin Krasnenko (speaker)
WDR Rundfunkchor
WDR Funkhausorchester/Wayne Marshall
rec. 2017, WDR Köln Klaus-von-Bismarck-Saal
Brief synopsis in the booklet
CAPRICCIO C5319 [64:15]

Eduard Künneke was a rather successful composer and conductor during the first half of the 20th century. He had studied with Max Bruch and worked as repetiteur and chorus master at an operetta theatre in Berlin, but left after his opera Robins Ende had premiered in 1909 and then played at 38 different German opera houses. He also worked for a couple of years as music director for the German record company Odeon, and recorded two of the earliest complete symphonies, Beethoven’s No. 5 and No. 6 – without getting credit on the label. His oeuvre encompasses among other things four operas, 12 operettas besides Herz über Bord, a couple of Broadway musicals and about a dozen film scores. His most famous work is without doubt Der Vetter aus Dingsda (The Cousin from Nowhere) from 1921, which contains the often heard Ich bin nur ein armer Wandergesell.

Herz über Bord was premiered in Zurich on 30 March 1935 and a little over a month later in Düsseldorf. Between 1935 and 1937 it was performed almost 500 times around Germany and also in Stockholm. In a letter to a friend Künneke reveals that not all the music was from his own pen. His friend Franz Marszalek composed two of the numbers: the opening song Hallo, hat mich jemand gerufen and Albert’s couplet Ja, in der Liebe bin ich leider nu rein Piccolo. Unfortunately the complete score is lost. Only a piano excerpt with noted parts and incomplete orchestral material from an arrangement by Franz Marszalek still exists. Based on this material Michael Gerihsen has reconstructed the operetta for this recording by the WDR Radio Orchestra.

And it is a colourful score, where he employs piano, saxophone, accordion, banjo and muted trumpets and trombones besides the traditional instruments. There is a flavour of German Schlagers with jazzy elements (the concluding Intermezzo in particular). There are occasional reminiscences of Lehár or Kálmán in some waltz music, otherwise readers familiar with Paul Abraham, contemporaneous with Künneke, will get a hint of what to expect. It is easy-listened and entertaining music with lots of high-spirits.

The story: “Lilli Brand is a professional swimmer and having once again won a competition she is expected to meet some admirers to celebrate her victory. But Lilli prefers to plan her forthcoming wedding to Albert and asks her childhood friend Hans to assist, which he does. Then he shows Lilli a letter which had by mistake been put in his letterbox. There Lilli is promised an inheritance of 50,000 Marks – en enormous sum of money – but only if she marries Hans. But he is engaged to Gwendolin! She of course wants the money and the four of them decide that Lilli and Hans should marry and then divorce after a year, so they can marry the ‘correct’ partners.

Lilli and Hans go for a honeymoon trip on a pleasure liner with Albert and Gwendolin as chaperones. However Lilli and Hans play their roles as a perfect couple that really fall in love. Hans is hit by bad conscience and leaves the ship on a dinghy. But Lilli, the swimmer, leaps into the water to follow him. They return to the ship to reveal their true feelings, but when they meet Gwendolin and Albert they have also fallen in love with each other!”

This not too improbable story is wrapped in exciting music, stirringly orchestrated. The score is not complete: two numbers are missing, and the spoken dialogue is abolished, bar some lines in the melodrama that concludes the third act. Consequently we can just sit back and just listen to the music and forget about the story. The four main characters are well-suited to their roles, the two sopranos vocally excellent, Martin Koch as Hans has a mellifluous lyric tenor and Julian Schulzki sports a flexible buffo-baritone. Wayne Marshall keeps up tempos but can’t quite avoid some pompousness in a couple of places where the music seems over-sized for such a slight story.

Operetta lovers with a taste for some interesting byways shouldn’t miss this charming and entertaining work.

Göran Forsling


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