Der Rosenkavalier: The Premiere Recording
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This early 60's recording of Strauss' Der Rosenvalier has long been regarded as the finest interpretation of the work on record, even in light of modern recording advantages such as better sound quality. Because Elisabeth Schwarzkopf is forever associated with the epitome of a Straussian/German soprano, and especially for her signature role as the Marschallin, this recording has never slipped into obscurity and remains a hot item. Herbert Von Karajan conducts the Strauss score with utmost brilliance, though at a slow and stately pace. The waltzes are simultaneously dizzying and sleep-inducing, Karajan suffuses the music with theatricality and comedy, the arias are virtuosic and the Final Trio/Presentation of the Rose scene is unbelievable, ethereal and magical. Through it all, there is a sort of old school charm.
The singers: Other than the unbeatable performance of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, we have here the grand mezzo soprano Christa Ludwig as Octavian. Ludwig's artistry is well known and well documented in many recordings. Capable of singing in the mezzo range, she was also able to reach high notes with agility and with ease. She is noted especially for her Leonore in Fidelio, but her Adalgisas, Susukis and Lieder repertoire are terrific. Ludwig shades her voice so that she fully immerses herself in the role of the dashing young man in love with the more experienced Marschallin. There is no fault to be found in her singing, and she is the equal of Schwarzkopf in this recording as far as great voice. The light lyric soprano Teresa Stich-Randall was a renowned Mozart soprano in her time, but her voice is too chirpy and light for my taste. But in the role of the pretty ingenue Sophie in this opera, it suits her well. The baritone Otto Edelman has fun with his role as the Baron. He sings in a basso-buffo style but has enough power in the high register to essay the florid music. And it is florid when one considers the extended scene between the Baron and Sophie which features the long waltz. Without a doubt, this recording will never go out of print. Other than this recording, there are other editions both on Mono and on Stereo. For excellent sound from the orchestra courtesy of Mr. Karajan, the stereo sounds great. But if you prefer to wrap yourself in the voice alone, the Mono sound is for you."