WORKS: Die Aeolsharfe
PERFORMER: Christina Landshamer, Andrea Lauren Brown, Mark Adler, Patrick Pobeschin, Andreas Macco, Thomas E Bauer, Johannes Kaleschke, Markus Brutscher, Sarah Wegener, Maria van Eldik, Adolph Seidel; Stuttgart Chamber Choir; Hofkapelle Stuttgart/Frieder Bernius
CATALOGUE NO: 83.220
If you have ever wondered why the works of Mozart and Beethoven are admired so much you should listen to this ‘Romantic Opera’ by Justin Knecht, first performed in Stuttgart in 1808.
The point is that Knecht is really very good – he knows how to create orchestral effects (Finale Act IV) and has an interestingly varied style (canons, jaunty choruses, chorales), and he can write complex and challenging arias (Selim’s Act III ‘Durch der sanften’ is astonishing) – but dynamic formal control is slightly beyond him.
This tale of love between Melilla, guardian of a sacred aeolian harp, and the prince Selim, unfolds stiffly, its individually crafted parts both admirable and puzzling at the same time.
This is no slur on the musicians, some of whom are excellent: Christina Landshamer as Melilla has an agile voice, superb diction and a good high range (in ‘Ich bin bereit’ from Act III); Mark Adler as Selim is a delightfully fresh, natural-sounding tenor (as heard in the Mozartian aria ‘Was der Liebe’); and Selim’s servant Bull (sung by Patrick Probeschin) and his lover Bulline (Andrea Lauren Brown) give characterful performances.
The orchestra is warm-toned and spirited, though occasionally clumsy (as in the recitative ‘Was ist aus mir geworden’), and the live performance sound is alert if not always well balanced. Anthony Pryer