A vivid new source for an underrated Furtwangler "Fidelio"
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 03/05/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"On the back of the jewel case, Archipel boasts of a "superb source" for this historic Fidelio from Oct. 12, 1953, claiming that it is of "mastertape quality." The sonics (in mono, of course) are undoubtedly quite good, clear and steady with very close miking of the singers yet a reasonable balance with the orchestra. Among Furtwangler collectors, this reading has been considered a bit of an also-ran. Here are Furtwaangler's four recordings of the opera:
August 3, 1948 - Salzburg Festival. Erna Schluter, Julius Patzak, Lisa della Casa, Ferdinand Frantz.
August 5, 1950 - Salzburg Festival. Kirsten Flagstad, Julius Patzak, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Paul Schoeffler.
October 12, 1953 - Vienna State Opera. Martha Modl, Wolfgang Windgassen, Sena Jurinac, Otto Edelmann.
October 13-17, 1953 - Studio Recording, same cast as Oct. 12th performance.
Pride of place has always gone to the 1950 Salzburg performance on EMI, which features Flagstad's authoritative, if mature-sounding Leonore and a fervent, poetic Florestan from Patzak. But with its refurbished sound, the 1953 performance from the Vienna State Opera strikes me as deserving considerable prasie. It is livelier than the studio account that EMI recorded on several nights after the curtain came down in the opera house. Modl sounds fresher and more animated, for one thing, and Furtwangler's pacing doesn't flag from fatigue. In fact, the tempos sound almost modern, although here and there, as in Leonore's great "Abscheulicher" aria, the conductor prefers a very braod approach. Modl is caught short of breath in a few bars of the dungeon melodrama (by the way, unlike the studio version, this one includes the dialogue). Ensemble is satisfying in its accuracy, with Furtwangler firmly establishing the melodic line for his singers, and the orchestra makes no glaringly obvious mistakes.
For some listeners, the 1950 cast offers a decided superiority over this one, and I wouldn't want to pass up Schwarzkopf's Marzellina, good as Sena Jurinac's is (she went on to assume the title role, as can be heard under Klemperer on Testament). The smalle roles are equaly well sung on both versions, I think. In one key role, that of Florestan, one might reasonably prefer the fervent young Wilfgang Windgassen over the aging and somewhat unsteady Patzak. (Neither can claim the sheer vocal power of Jon Vickers in the postwar era.)
Avid collectors will want both accounts, naturally, but the competiiton is no longer as one-sided as I had assumed all these years."
Fidelio - Furtwangler -Theater an der Wien
Hans Boon | New York City, New York United States | 01/03/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Legendary live performance of Fidelio, even better than studio recording with the same cast. No other performance approaches this."