STRAUSS Der Rosenkavalier (Albrecht)
I would like to have seen on DVD the Dutch company’s 50th-anniversary production of no fewer than four performances from which this new release was drawn. For once the stage director Jan Phillip Gloger went the whole hog and updated the action to the present day. Its effect on what we hear seems to have been wholly beneficial, encouraging a cast which in Rosenkavalier terms is quite young – and might still be called promising – to pay especial attention to the text.
Peter Rose’s Ochs is strong of both rustic accent and aristocratic mien, never a clown but pointedly funny in his fear after he is wounded by Octavian. In that latter role Paula Murrihy continues a distinct Irish tradition (Murray, Erraught) encompassing both aristocratic lover and the false ‘Mariandel’ with aplomb and precision in ensemble. Hanna-Elisabeth Müller’s Sophie floats the high notes that Strauss indulgently but mercilessly gave her in Act 2 with almost insolent ease. And Camilla Nylund’s Marschallin, in pure voice, has special colours and sadnesses to bring to the character’s confusion and disappointment in the Act 1 clocks monologue and when confronting the Octavian/Sophie relationship.
The whole is welded together by the forthright leadership of Marc Albrecht, now on his third recorded major Strauss opera. This is not a dreamy indulgent Rosenkavalier but a sparky up-tempo one which is not afraid (like the old George Szell performance) to remind listeners that, for all its Gemütlichkeit, this was the work that immediately followed Elektra: the quite modern sounds that Strauss evoked for the Lerchenau servants disturbing the Faninal household are positively encouraged. There are some traditional minor snips but no worry (go for the studio Erich Kleiber or Solti if you want every bar). The recording is both clear and lifelike and I hope the Netherlands Philharmonic get the attention they deserve for a virtuoso reading on pit duty of this lengthy and complex score. Rosenkavalier on disc is a field of big, big names (the Kleibers, Karajans and the old Busch perhaps dominant) – not to mention the DVDs – but this new issue is a bright competitor.