COMPOSERS: J Strauss
WORKS: Der Zigeunerbaron
PERFORMER: Herbert Lippert, Pamela Coburn, Rudolf Schasching, Julia HamariArnold Schoenberg Choir, Vienna SO/Nikolaus Harnoncourt
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-94555-2 DDD
The Gypsy Baron tells the story of a young man who returns from exile to Hungary hoping to claim his ancestral lands, only to find them occupied by gypsies, with one of whom he falls in love. This is Johann Strauss’s most serious and ambitious operetta, an exhilarating work full of exotic and highly flavoured music. This new recording with Viennese forces conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt may not vocally surpass EMI’s version from the Fifties, which was headed by Schwarzkopf and Gedda, both in radiant voice, but there are several very strong reasons for acquiring it.
Those reasons are the numbers excised from the score before the operetta’s premiere in Vienna in 1885, and now restored by Harnoncourt. Most of this music has not been played until now, and all of it is well worth hearing: the Act II finale, for example, here performed at its full length of twenty minutes. Herbert Lippert brings an echt wienerisch timbre and style to the title role, blending delightfully with the American soprano Pamela Coburn in their lilting duet, ‘Wer uns getraut’. The rest of the mainly Austrian cast give excellent and authentic performances, and Harnoncourt conducts impeccably. Charles Osborne