Solti: Strauss – Ariadne Auf Naxos (2 CD, APE)

Solti: Strauss - Ariadne Auf Naxos (2 CD, APE)
Solti: Strauss - Ariadne Auf Naxos (2 CD, APE)

Composer: Richard Strauss
Orchestra: London Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Georg Solti
Audio CD
SPARS Code: ADD
Number of Discs: 2
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Decca
Size: 474 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: no

Ariadne auf Naxos, opera, Op. 60-II (TrV 228a) (revised version)
Composed by Richard Strauss
Performed by London Philharmonic Orchestra
with Manfred Jungwirth, Rene Kollo, Gerhard Unger, Geoffrey Parsons, Tatiana Troyanos, Georg Tichy, Alfred Sramek, Norma Burrowes, Kurt Equiluz, Walter Berry, Barry McDaniel, Peter Weber, Enid Hartle, Edita Gruberova, Heinz Zednik, Erich Kunz, Deborah Cook, Leontyne Price
Conducted by Georg Solti

Disc: 1
01. Vorspiel. Mein Herr Haushofmeister!
02. Vorspiel. Hier finden Euer Gnaden die Mamsell Zerbinetta
03. Vorspiel. Esclsgesicht! Sehr unverschämter frecher Esel!
04. Vorspiel. Hat der Herr leicht ein Stückerl Schreibpapier?
05. Vorspiel. Ihnen allen habe ich eine plötzliche Anordnung
06. Vorspiel. Ich weiß nicht, wo mir der Kopf steht
07. Vorspiel. Ein Augenblick ist venig
08. Vorspiel. An Ihre Pläze, meine Damen und Herren!
09. Ouvertüre
10. Schläft sie?
11. Ach! Wo war ich? Tot?
12. Ein Schönes war: hieß Theseus-Ariadne

Disc: 2
01. Es ist alles vergebens… Es gibt ein Reich
02. Die Dame gibt mit trübem Sinn
03. Großmächtige Prinzessin, wer verstünde nicht
04. Noch glaub ich dem einen ganz mich gehörend
05. Hübsch gepredigt! Aber tauben Ohren!
06. Ein schönes Wunder!
07. Circe, kannst du mich hören?
08. Circe, ich konnte fliehen!
09. Wie? kennst du mich denn?
10. Gibt es kein Hinüber?

Richard Strauss’s Ariadne with Leontyne Price

Richard Strauss has vexed musicians and historians with his choice of actions at several junctures in his life. The quasi-collaboration with the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s (I say quasi because I think his support of the Nazi regime was limited due to Strauss’ misgivings about the regime) is the one that has received the most scrutiny, but not the only one. Earlier in his career, Strauss had written two big opera scores, “Elektra” and “Salome,” that experimented with high levels of dissonance and stood in the vanguard of emerging musical modernism. But after “Elektra”, Strauss changed course and began writing music that was much more palatable to his bourgeois audience. This stepping back from musical progressivism earned the scorn of modernist composers and critics, who saw a superb musical talent consciously deciding to “pander” to middlebrow musical tastes. “Ariadne auf Naxos” was composed during the Great War, premiered in 1916, when the German population had almost run out of food, and represents this “retrogression,” with melodic appeal, entertainment value and an escapist theme. Enough time has passed that musical modernism no longer some sort of inevitable objective but represents one of the 20th-century’s many musical developments. A long way of saying that “Ariadne” can know be listened to as just another opera and not as part of an ideological struggle.

Based on a Hugo von Hoffmanstahl libretto, the opera is extremely self-conscious and self-referential, has neoclassical and neobaroque influences as well as some Viennese schmaltz thrown in, and features absolutely virtuosic and mind-blowingly difficult vocal parts, especially for the three main female singers. The current performance dates from 1977 and I think contains just excellent vocal work by everyone. I’ve marked it four stars for reasons I’ll explain below, but I think it the singing is amazing. This is the last role that Leontyne Price learned during her long and illustrious career. I’ve read some comments criticizing Price for this performance with which I disagree. I think Price is in fine form, handles the difficult high-tessitura passages very well and is up to the task of this demanding role. She is joined by several other opera stars who I think are excellent, including Edita Gruberova, who slides around a bit but is really terrific, Tatiana Troyanos, who appears in the Prologue only (the “play before the play”), and the male lead, Rene Kollo. The singing is flat-out excellent.

I am reducing the rating to four stars for two reasons: 1) “Ariadne” is complex and full of ornate detail. The famous conductor Georg Solti leads the production and I think he simetimes fails to let the music breathe. Instead of pausing or slowing down the action, he rushes things, which makes things helter-skelter at times. In other words, the pacing isn’t quite right. 2) The recorded sound quality is not great. It has a bit of that digital harshness and there is some bass boominess. London released a re-mastered issue of this analog performance a few years ago, so I would recommend looking for that CD set, which is in print.

This is a very good vocal performance of an interesting Richard Strauss opera. It has some flaws which don’t negate its overall high quality.

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