"For years and years and years there was no other recording of ROSENKAVALIER to compare with this one, and many people were introduced to the opera by dint of this recording (done originally in both mono and stereo). Indeed, it still it still makes many people's lists of the alltime greatest opera recordings period, and when you listen to the gorgeous conducting of von Karajan especially in the prelude you'll instantly hear why (there is still yet to be a better conductor for this opera than Karajan). Elizabeth Schwarzkopf's portrayal of the Marschallin is in and of itself equally praised, and yet here I think the kudos have been heaped over-high. Schwarzkopf is indeed very moving, and she's magnificent in the great Time aria and in the splendid closing trio, but her highly mannered responses to her lover often get on your nerves: there's a little too much cooing and gurgling going on. (Was perhaps her Marschallin influenced not a little by the public antics of the Gabor sisters at the time?) Christa Ludwig is in fine voice but never seemed the right choice to play Octavian (she's not nearly masculine enough). Teresa Stich-Randall is in glorious voice as Sophie: although she has often been faulted for lack of warmth here, her underplaying seems to counterbalance Schwarzkopf's coyness.The opera itself is almost irrresistible. Susan Sontag once infamously listed it as a defining work of camp, which should say more about Sontag's chilly aesthetic sense than it should about the opera itself, which is magnificent: ravishing melody piled upon ravishing melody. This is not the most challenging opera Richard Strauss wrote, nor even the most moving, but it certainly is the most beautiful. Idiosyncracies of performance notwithstanding, this is still a highly recommended recording--although prospective buyers might want to check out closely the Kiri Te Kanawa version as well before buying."
Perfect Strauss from London and another Time
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 07/18/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are two dozen or so Reference recordings in the glorious (and odd) history of recorded Opera. A Reference recording is one in which all elements coalesce to produce such obvious perfection that, even unseen, the Opera assumes legendary status: influencing (even terminating) subsequent recording efforts of the same work. The stunning Callas - Gobbi Tosca, now in it's second half-century, is the undisputed example of a perfect recording. Opera mavens who demur must keep it to themselves. Opera's a tough gig.Der Rosenkavalier has been doubly blessed. This 1956 recording has enjoyed Reference status since its release (in glorious mono). Recently, a remastered Erich Kleiber effort with Maria Reining as the Feldmarschallin has resurfaced and assumed Reference status for many, as well. If you awoke this morning craving a truly Golden-Age performance of this perfumed homage to fin-de-siecle decadence, you will not go wrong purchasing either one. If, however, you (like me) ARE an example of fin-de-siecle decadence you must have both. Recorded in London's Kingway Hall (you can hear the underground trains rumble in the distance if you crank-up the subwoofer) and originally mastered to mono to appease Producer Walter Legge's legendary hatred for stereo, EMI's house band of the era, The Philharmonia Orchestra, has never sounded silkier. The closest contemporary example of how this Orchestra once sounded is The Met Orchestra under Levine before his recent illness. Strings are plump sounding yet elegant. The horns forceful with perfect intonation: this score is horn and string driven. A failure here is fatal! The woodwinds and percussion perfect as well. Karajan and Klemperer evoked wonders from this orchestra, yet two more disparate personalities cannot be conceived. Orchestra's are not usually so democratic so I suspect Legge's influence at work. Luckily, the original multi-channel master was not destroyed and, unlike the great Sawallisch led Capriccio, a stereo version of Rosenkavalier is available. The record's soundfield is narrow yet deep, typical of early stereo. Some compression and tape hiss is inevitable but is not bad enough to detract from enjoyment.Schwarzkopf was born to the part of the Marschallin. Aristocratic authority coupled with wistful sadness, her keynote for the role, must be delicately balanced. I think she is incomparable. Her voice has unusual heft in this recording. Again, I suspect Legge's influence. He was her husband, after all. Oh to be a fly-on-the-wall.... Otto Edelmann as Baron Ochs bellows beautifully, never yielding to mere vulgarity. Christa Ludwig, a favorite of mine, is wonderful as Octavian. Eberhard Wachter a fine Faninal. The truly stunning cast also includes Teresa Stich-Randall, Ljuba Welitsch and Nicolai Gedda. My praise for this glorious assemblage is utterly superfluous. Such casts are just a half-forgotten dream now. But this is what it takes to make a Reference recording. If you don't own it (or have never heard it) and you are even remotely receptive to Strauss, I urge you to wallow in this Grand Viennese confection. Three years after this Opera's premier, the world it so lovingly depicts was skewered by the sword and died in the Trenches. What was wistful becomes tragic. What once glistened now fades. This Opera is all that is left of that poor silver rose."
toddyr | Auckland New Zealand | 08/04/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This recording remains the best Der Rosenkavalier and, for me, one of my most treasured opera recordings of all time. While there are other wonderful recordings (I would, in particular, recommend Solti's with Regine Crespin as the Marschallin or Haitink's with Kiri Te Kanawa), Elisabeth Schwarzkopf's portrait of the Marschallin set the standard. Schwarzkopf portrays in staggering detail a Marschallin who is young and attractive, sad and scared, and wise and generous in giving up her Octavian for Sophie. Schwarzkopf is surrounded by a perfect cast with Christa Ludwig's firm mezzo making a strong Octavian; Teresa Stich-Randall has a clear, whiteness of tone that makes her an ideal Sophie; and Otto Edelmann is a characterful Baron Ochs. Karajan gives an emotional reading of the work that he has rarely matched elsewhere. The transfer to CD is from original analogue tapes recorded in 1956. It does expose some misty sound occasionally, but there is a great sense of presence and overall the sound is remarkable. The producer, Walter Legge, declared it "A miracle" when he listened to the opera. I couldn't agree with him more."
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf: Ave Atque Vale
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 08/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It seems almost impossible to believe that Elisabeth Schwarzkopf is gone. She died recently at age 90, remaining the prototype of many of the roles she defined, having lived a life of scholarly musicianship, gifted acting ability, beauty of presence, and a voice considered by many to be one of the finest ever created. She was blessed and we in turn were fortunate to have her enormous gifts captured for posterity on both recording and film.
Will anyone ever come close to matching the stature of commitment to the role of the Marschallin in 'Der Rosenkavalier' Schwarzkopf possessed and continued to stun audiences throughout her life on the stage? I think not. Though there are reigning divas who deliver this role with great power, there was something about Schwarzkopf's intuitive delivery that truly made her own the role. Her Marschallin was credibly beautiful, convincing us she could be the lover of a teenage lad, while have the grace and dignity to look into that infamous mirror during her Act 1 monologue and speak to every aspect of aging and the passage of time that touched the hearts of opera lovers for years. Another moment that is unforgettable is the final lines as she has leaves Sofie and Octavian to their new love, soaringly singing in the trio, then quietly and with profound dignity walking off stage, looking back with her inimitable 'Ja, ja', spoken in perfect Viennese dialect. Breathtaking!
This recoding of Strauss' masterpiece remains, for this listener, the finest ever made. Joining the luminous Schwarzkopf are Christa Ludwig as Octavian, Teresa Stich-Randall as Sofie, and Otto Edelman, Eberhard Wachter and even Nicolai Gedda in the brief but glorious role as the Italian Singer! Herbert von Karajan conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus in a rousing, waltzing, zesty, and profoundly moving performance. Everything is in place and perfect.
There are many CDs of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf that have been re-mastered and are available readily (another of her treasures is her rendition of Strauss' 'Four Last Songs' which will never again be so meaningful as they are now at her departure). For posterity all opera lovers should hasten to purchase this well re-mastered CD set before it becomes a collectors' item. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf may be gone but her memory and her supreme musicality and commitment are eternal. Grady Harp, August 06"
One of the better Rosenkavalier's, although with cuts
The Cultural Observer | 08/13/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This recording of Rosenkavalier conducted by von Karajan is usually the first of many Rosenkavalier recordings recommended by Straussians and classical music elitists. There is a reason for that: Karajan's sumptuous, Viennese, and beautiful conducting (a very Straussian quality), and the contribution of great artists such as Christa Ludwig and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf to this great score. In terms of musical technicality, Karajan brings out the music's lush qualities in such a way that very very few conductors has matched since. His vision gives a very melancholy view to the opera...very Romantic and melancholy. Some people may not like it, but I do.
The singers in this recording are reknowned for their interpretations of the roles, with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf's Marschallin being labeled as the definitive take on the Princess' character. I think that, for all her mannerisms and careful treatment of the score though, that the wholistic interpretation of the role is lost. Her voice is perfect for the role though. I have never heard a more affecting and genuine Viennese Marschallin.
The Octavian in this recording is Christa Ludwig. I need not say anything more about this artist except that everything she touches becomes the definitive interpretation of that role. From the alto part in Bach's St. Matthew Passion to Brangane, Waltraute, and Fricka in Wagner, and the Mahler alto parts, everything that this great artist sings is a pleasure to the ear and to the interpetive listener's point of view. She set the prototype of the mezzo Octavian for future generations (in what was supposed to be a soprano role).
Teresa Stich-Randall is a so-so choice for the part of Sophie. I've heard better elsewhere. Otto Edelmann though, is a very good Ochs. It is very funny...very Viennese. Nicolai Gedda is a very fluent and dulcet-sounding Italian tenor.
In conclusion, while I think this Rosenkavalier has many merits that make it a delight to listen to, I don't think it should be the definitive Rosenkavalier for any collection. There are cuts here and there, but it is nonetheless a magnificent performance. Also, I think the conducting could have used a bit more liveliness to it as opposed to the Romantic and melancholy sound that Karajan brought to this interpretation. It is an excellent Rosenkavalier, but there are a few recordings that have advantages over it.
I would say, perhaps Carlos Kleiber's Rosenkavalier with Fassbaender and Gwyneth Jones and Lucia Popp would probably top the list because of the wonderful conducting and the near-perfect cast (but really, Schwarzkopf could be a better Marschallin than Jones in many instances) and Popp's perfect Sophie. Another set I really like is Solti's due to the excellence of his cast and the beauty of Helen Donath's Sophie, which has never been bettered on disc. Although Regine Crespin does not have the most fluid of voices, she gives a most touching portrayal of the Marschallin, and I definitely like Yvonne Minton's very strong Octavian. Solti is not the most Viennese conductor, but his lively reading of the score gives it some new perspective. I think listeners should give Erich Kleiber's account with Decca a try. Jurinac and Güden are perfect as Octavian and Sophie, and Reining, even if her voice is rather mature for the Marschallin, gives a most breathtaking and complete interpretation. The Ochs in that recording, Ludwig Weber, is also one of the best interpreters of the part without the hammy theatrics of some Barons. I'd still stick with this one for Schwarzkopf though, but Stich-Randall ruins an otherwise near-perfect set for me."