Hoffmann/D’albert: Undine

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Hoffmann/D’albert
LABELS: Koch Schwann
WORKS: Undine
PERFORMER: Elisabeth Glauser, Krisztina Laki, Mani Mekler, Hans Franzen, Roland Hermann, Karl Ridderbusch ; St Hedwig’s Cathedral Choir, Berlin, Berlin RSO/Roland Bader
CATALOGUE NO: 3-1092-2 DDD
In English-speaking countries, at least, these two works make more frequent appearances in the history books than on the stage. Undine, by ETA Hoffmann (best known for his fantastic tales and for his vivid writing on Mozart and Beethoven), occupies a notable position in music history as one of the works inaugurating the genre of German Romantic opera. Its theme – the incompatibility of the mortal and spirit worlds – was to resurface in such operas as Marschner’s Hans Heiling and Wagner’s Lohengrin, as did its technique of reminiscence (recurring) motifs. Undine is less than a masterpiece, but more than an historical curiosity, rising to moments of powerful dramatic expression. This premiere recording by a generally admirable cast under Roland Bader makes a strong case for the work.

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Tiefland, alas, fares less well. As an unusual example of German verismo (realism), Eugen d’Albert’s opera has always been popular in German-speaking countries and deserves to be better known elsewhere. But it is difficult to see this third-rate 1957 recording making many friends for it, even at mid-price. The singing and conducting are for the most part adequate, but the recording quality is primitive. Barry Millington