Pfitzner Conducts Overtures = by MOZART; WEBER; MENDELSSOHN; LORTZING; & LANNER – Berlin State Opera Orch./ Berlin Philharmonic / Hans Pfitzner – Pristine

by | Sep 20, 2011 | Classical Reissue Reviews

Pfitzner Conducts Overtures = MOZART: Le nozze di Figaro; Cosi fan tutte; WEBER: Der Freischuetz; Preciosa; Oberon; Jubel; MENDELSSOHN: Hebrides Overture, Op. 26; LORTZING: Zar und Zimmermann; LANNER: Pestherwalzer, Op. 93 – Berlin State Opera Orchestra (Mozart, Weber)/ Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Weber Oberon and Jubel; Mendelssohn)/ Hans Pfitzner – Pristine Audio PASC 305, 64:01 [] ****:
Composer Hans Pfitzner ((1869-1949) attained a certain celebrity as a conductor, and his inscriptions of Beethoven and Schumann have garnered praise, along with performances of his one masterpiece, the opera Palestrina. A self-confessed anti-modernist, Pfitzner alienated himself from the post-WW I generation of composers and performers who championed the Second Viennese School and its various influences. A self-appointed aristocrat, Pfitzner by fifty had become strongly misanthropic, feeling that Europe as a whole had not rewarded his many efforts as composer and pedagogue. Still, the record companies in Germany—Grammophon and Polydor—recognized Pfitzner’s innate gift on the podium, and his legacy in short operatic works, electrically recorded 1927-1933, of other composers is here assembled through the tireless ministrations of Mark Obert-Thorn.
Curiously, I find the first two offerings by Mozart, the Marriage of Figaro Overture (1929) and the Cosi fan tutte Overture (1929) somber heavy-trod affairs, the tempos plodding and the marcato inhibiting of the music’s natural buoyancy. The BSOO proves ever responsive, but the players really do not exult until the various Weber items, and then they find their true element. Pfitzner possesses a natural sense of mystery and drama suited to Weber, so Der Freischuetz (1927), Preciosa (1927), Oberon (1928), and Jubel (1928) exert a lithe energy I missed in Mozart. The Weber melodic line, especially in Preciosa and Jubel, sings with a fluid response in the high strings that warrants our admiration. Oberon, too, exerts the mystique of the Black Forest or perhaps Shakespeare’s Arden, in its alternately sinister harmonies and explosively virile rhythms. The Mendelssohn Hebrides opened strongly, but I lost my concentration in the polyphonic later development, where Mitropoulos, Klemperer, and Furtwaengler have consistently compelled my attention. If Pfitzner could be known for severe lack of tact in social relations, he recovered his capacity for charm in both the Lortzing (1929) and Lanner (1933) items. A sense of gypsy color infiltrates the Lortzing, especially as the BSOO low winds and tenor strings weave beneath a wonderful soprano legato. The Viennese spirit has in the Lanner waltz the lilt and flirtatious poise par excellence, and Pfitzner proves as canny in its shifting accents anything I have heard from Clemens Krauss and Erich Kleiber.  That Pfitzner would have excelled with the “Vienna Pops” seems so evident that we could weep for his unused potential. This addition to the Pfitzner legacy fills a real vacuum in his musical persona.
—Gary Lemco

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