R Strauss - Ariadne auf Naxos
Philharmonia Orchestra / Herbert von Karajan
EMI 567077-2 Buy now
(128’ · ADD · S/T/t)
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf sop Ariadne; Irmgard Seefried sop Composer; Rita Streich sop Zerbinetta; Rudolf Schock ten Bacchus; Karl Dönch bar Music-Master; Hermann Prey bar Harlequin; Fritz Ollendorff bass Truffaldino; Helmut Krebs ten Brighella; Gerhard Unger ten Scaramuccio; Lisa Otto sop Naiad; Grace Hoffman mez Dryad; Anny Felbermayer sop Echo; Hugues Cuénod ten Dancing Master; Alfred Neugebauer spkr Major-Domo
Karajan’s Ariadne is perfectly cast, magnificently performed and very well recorded. The scoring, for a small orchestra, demands virtuoso playing from what, in effect, is a group of soloists; the members of the Philharmonia Orchestra rise brilliantly to the occasion. There’s a warmth and beauty of tone, a sweep of phrase, that gives lively promise of the wonderful playing we hear throughout the opera. Karajan’s genius has never been more apparent than in his treatment of the Bacchus-Ariadne scene, where he makes the score glow with a Dionysiac ardour and in which, at the tremendous climax when Bacchus enters and is greeted by Ariadne as the herald of Death, he gets an ample volume of tone from his players.
Every character is vividly brought to life – Karl Dönch’s harassed Music-Master is offset by the cynical Dancing Master of Hugues Cuénod, and Alfred Neugebauer, in his speaking role, conveys with a superbly calm pomposity his contempt for both sets of artists. The way he enunciates his words is superb. The other small parts, all sung by experienced artists, are wholly in the picture. Rita Streich sings the lyrical phrases of Zerbinetta beautifully. Technical difficulties do not appear to exist for her and all she does is musical. Irmgard Seefried, as the Composer, has less beauty of tone but more variety. The ineffably lovely trio for the Naiad, Dryad and Echo is exquisitely sung by Lisa Otto, Grace Hoffman and Anny Felbermayer, paralleled by the equally beautiful singing of the other trios. They are simply ravishing and, like all the concerted music, have a perfect ensemble. The commedia dell’arte characters are all very good, especially Hermann Prey: and their ensembles between themselves and with Zerbinetta are a great delight. After an awkward start, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf brings the dark tone that’s needed, to Ariadne’s sorrows and gives us much lovely singing thereafter, and also all the rapture called for at the end of her great address to the herald of Death and in her greeting to Bacchus. Rudolf Schock sings the latter with heroic tone and sufficient nuance to make one believe in the youthful god.
The general impression is of a truly magnificent performance and recording in which all concerned have, under Karajan’s superb direction, been inspired to give of their best.