ALBUM TITLE: Pfitzner – Das Christ-Elflein
WORKS: Das Christ-Elflein
PERFORMER: Marlis Petersen, Martina Rüping, Kevin Connors, Michael Volle, Andreas Hörl; Tölz Boys Choir; Munich Radio Orchestra/Claus Peter Flor
CATALOGUE NO: 777 155-2
Pfitzner himself called it a ‘pocket Parsifal’ and there is indeed some rapt string writing in the second act of Das Christ-Elflein and an ethereal vocal line that bows the knee to Wagner’s last masterpiece.
However, not even the Wizard of Bayreuth would have tried to square the impossible cultural circle at the heart of Das Christ-Elflein: melding Father Christmas and a pagan Nationalist love of the German Forest and its sacred fir trees with a Christian Christmas message. For all the commitment that Claus Peter Flor brings to this live recording Das Christ-Elflein itself remains earthbound. Marlis Petersen, however, takes off as the Christmas Elf and Friedemann Röhlig is a deliciously grumpy Old Fir Tree. The Tölz Boy’s Choir sing like the angels they’re supposed to be, and one can even forgive the over hushed tones of the narrator, Andrea Sokol.
Das Christ-Elflein is welcome for as a reminder of the late Romantic tradition of writing Christmas operas for children, providing further proof that Pfitzner’s music is less a footnote to Late German Romanticism than a troubling reflection of the choices before any self-willed German composer living through the period from Parsifal to the Third Reich. Christopher Cook