Edition Ferenc Fricsay, Vol. VIII = MOZART: Die Entfuehrung aus dem Serail – Anton Dermota, tenor/Sari Barabas, soprano/Rita Streich. soprano/Helmut Krebs, tenor/Josef Greindl, bass/ Ernst Dernberg, speaker/RIAS Kammerchor/RIAS Sym. – Audite

by | May 22, 2009 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Edition Ferenc Fricsay, Vol. VIII = MOZART: Die Entfuehrung aus dem Serail, K. 384 – Anton Dermota, tenor/Sari Barabas, soprano/Rita Streich. soprano/Helmut Krebs, tenor/Josef Greindl, bass/ Ernst Dernberg, speaker/RIAS Kammerchor/RIAS Symphonie-Orchester/Ferenc Fricsay

Audite 23.413, 2-CDs 36:28, 69:29 [Distrib. by Albany] ****:

Ferenc Fricsay (1914-1963) adopted a decidedly chamber-music approach to his first studio recording of Mozart’s 1782 singspiel The Abduction from the Seraglio (19-21 December 1949), a procedure which insured the maestro’s emphases on clarity and dramatic intensity. Fricsay had prepared this production specifically for radio broadcast only. He adjusted his orchestral forces to highlight the character of Konstanz, featuring the Hungarian soprano Sari Barabas (b. 1914), whose high, flexible tessitura fits Fricsay’s sound-concept and provides a wonderful foil to the natural, deep buffa from Josef Greindl’s Osmin, the palace-guard whose Act III “revenge” aria must descend to a low D.  If Barabas has not the fluid grace of Maria Stader, she maintains the light tension requisite in her first act aria, “Ach ich liebte, war so gluecklich” with an aerial quality whose momentary wobble does not detract from the spirit of love’s freedom. In the time-honored spirit of singspiel, the action proceeds by spoken dialogue; and Fricsay uses professional actors, particularly Ernst Dernberg (1887-1960) for the role of Pasha Selim, whose act of forgiveness at the opera’s finale transforms him from the stereotypical infidel to a blessed Christian.

Anton Dermota’s Belmonte enjoys his light, fluid vocalism, a generous lyric gift that easily moves in ardor and yearning to find and rescue his beloved Konstanze.  Dermota (1910-1989) shines in his work with Helmut Krebs (Pedrillo) and Josef Greindl. The Chorus of Janissaries captures beautifully the Viennese stereotype of the Turkish horde whose “barbarisms’ can only be tamed by love’s devotions. The inimitable Rita Streich (1920-1987) realizes the coloratura of Blonde with seamless transparency, her natural bilingualism moving to the spoken dialogue without stress. Her banter with Osmin never ceases to delight through its deft negotiation of vocal staccati and sudden flights into the musical stratosphere. Helmut Krebs (1913-2007) distinguishes himself throughout, though his Act III serenade, “In Mahrenland gefangen war” especially projects the sylvan grace that points to aspects of Leporello in Don Giovanni.

The purist will find that conductor Fricsay arranged Act III rather unconventionally, cutting Belmonte’s aria “Ich baue ganz auf deine Staerke” and replacing it with “Wenn der Freude Traenen fliessen,” an aria straight out of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. The dialogue following the song in praise of Bacchus (so Pedrillo can get Osmin drunk in order to escape with Belmonte, Konstanze, and Blonde) directly precedes the final quartet, in which the four Westerners at Pasha Selim’s summer residence praise joy for having seen each other again, an anticipation of their later freedom in escape. The musical momentum moves ever towards the fulfillment of human love and (political) freedom, the bases of Mozart’s Masonic commitments. What endures of this performance comes from the vivid expressiveness of Fricsay’s hand-picked instrumentalists, as in the extended introduction to Konstanze’s “Martern aller Arten,” her Act II, Scene 3 explosive lament for the trials and sufferings of incarceration and her separation from Belmonte. Vocal and instrumental virtuosity in this “torture aria” meet on equal, exalted terms. The Mozart lover will ever find many anticipations of The Queen of the Night’s fierce arias in Seraglio, for it seems that Fricsay wants this opera to establish an etude for the later The Magic Flute. The aria, “Welche Wonne, welche Lust,” from Act II is “merely” a transposition of Mozart’s D Major Flute Concerto, third movement. The Act II Quartetto, “Ach, Belmonte! Ach main Leben!” enjoys that fluid resonance with which we associate the best of Fricsay’s idiosyncratic, generous Mozart style: the ensemble balanced, the trumpet and tympani parts piercing and colossal, even when subsumed to the etched, verbal clarity of the singers’ parts.  A musical and intellectually satisfying experience, this sonic restoration of Fricsay’s first opera recording marks a vivid moment in Mozart performance-practice, from one of his most illustrious acolytes.

— Gary Lemco

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