KÜNNEKE Heart Overboard
Operetta composers confronted the jazz age in different ways. Prince Sándor in Kálmán’s Die Herzogin von Chicago actually outlaws the Charleston; and by the end of Eduard Künneke’s Herz über Bord, which premiered in Zurich in 1935, you might sympathise. It’s a very perky score indeed. Künneke studied with Max Bruch but cheerfully embraced his own time, and dance rhythms – two-steps, foxtrots and, of course, waltzes – bubble through Herz über Bord, though with its saxophones and sizzling cymbals it’s not exactly a champagne operetta. Whisky-and-soda, maybe.
Anyway, this is its first full modern recording; and, if you can get past a certain studio-bound ambience, there’s plenty to enjoy. As with Cole Porter’s near-contemporary Anything Goes, much of the action takes place on board a liner, where in order to win an inheritance two attractive young couples (the heroine Lilli is a champion swimmer) try to maintain a pair of more or less pretend relationships before realising where their affections actually belong, and cheerfully swap partners: four hearts in quickstep time.
The score – which includes two entire numbers by the original orchestrator Franz Marszalek – has been reconstructed by Michael Gerihsen, and without having much to go on (highlights were recorded in the 1930s) the orchestrations certainly sound the part. Wayne Marshall conducts briskly, with an agreeably light touch and just enough flexibility to catch the lilt of the more expansive numbers, notably the Act 2 waltz duet ‘Wenn das Herz aus spricht’.
The cast sound youthful, which again is as you’d hope: soprano Annika Boos and tenor Martin Koch are sunny without being overly squally as the serious couple, though of the comic pair Julian Schulzki makes for a rather colourless Albert – certainly no match for Linda Hergarten, whose agile, tightly focused voice has the authentic soubrette sparkle. For reasons that aren’t really explained, the intermezzo between Acts 3 and 4 is played at the very end, as a sort of instrumental postlude. It doesn’t really come off.
But it doesn’t do to over-think Herz über Bord. This is a charming addition to the recorded repertoire, performed with affection but presented – as per the infuriating, condescending norm with operetta recordings – without libretto or translations. Non German-speakers will have to content themselves with the tunes, which are delightful, if not quite top-drawer Künneke. For that, listen to his 1921 smash Der Vetter aus Dingsda – though don’t expect proper annotation there, either.