Johann Strauss II: Die Fledermaus

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COMPOSERS: Johann Strauss II
LABELS: RCA Red Seal
WORKS: Die Fledermaus
PERFORMER: Rudolf Schock, Wilma Lipp, Walter Berry, Elisabeth Steiner; Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna SO/Robert Stolz
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 65990 2 ADD Reissue (1964)
A pupil of Engelbert Humperdinck, Robert Stolz (1880-1975) was widely regarded as the last link to the golden age of Viennese operetta, ‘in an era when the century of the waltz is as distant as the Kaiser’s beard’ according to one Viennese critic. Stolz, principal conductor of the Theater an der Wien from 1907 to 1919, was a highly successful operetta composer himself, and a prolific composer of screen music and songs, securing immortality with his seductive title song of his 1933 operetta, Two Hearts in Three-Quarter Time. As a young man Stolz saw Strauss perform, met him personally and was his guest shortly before the waltz king’s death in 1899.

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So his interpretations of these two Strauss favorites bear considerable weight. And they bear it with a delightfully light hand. Both were recorded in 1964 and show what splendid veteran casts can do with music they obviously all love. The singing isn’t always perfectly youthful, but the musicality and characterizations are full of delicious vitality. Stolz makes the most of every phrase, with sweeping allargandos at important cadences, and the spirit of Strauss’s Vienna in every bar. Even the Fledermaus ballet is virtually intact. Fly in the ointment: notes in English, but neither libretti nor even synopses included, which makes for heavy weather unless you know the plots as well as Stolz did. Barrymore Laurence Schrerer