WORKS: Die Zauberflöte
PERFORMER: Herbert Lippert, Elisabeth Norberg-Schulz, Georg Tichy, Kurt Rydl, Hellen Kwon, Wilfried Gahmlich, Lotte LeitnerHungarian Festival Chorus, Failoni Orchestra, Budapest/Michael Halász
CATALOGUE NO: 8.660030 DDD
Die Zauberflöte is such a jumble of styles that it’s hardly surprising that no single recording is entirely recommendable. So Naxos’s latest budget offering starts from the premise that it has less to fear from its competitors and while not surpassing them, it at least equals them.
Of course there have been more outstanding individual portrayals in the past – one might hope for a little more inwardness from Herbert Lippert’s otherwise fresh and ardent Tamino, more radiant delivery from Elisabeth Norberg-Schulz’s Pamina and a touch more humour from Georg Tichy’s Papageno. But the fact is that their style and sensitivity is exemplary, as is their sense of teamwork is the key to the success of this whole enterprise, even when singing or characterisation is perhaps less than adequate (a wobbly Sarastro, a pedestrian Speaker), or the role itself is an impossible one (Hellen Kwon is as convincing a Queen of the Night vocally and dramatically as any I’ve heard). Inevitably the orchestral contribution has neither the sheen and precision of the big-name bands on rival recordings nor the clarity and precision of a period group, and the acoustic of the hall sometimes adds an unwelcome soft-focus effect to the slower music. But Michael Halász’s traditional reading is not undistinguished, it is free from mannerism and sensitive to both drama and music. Not ideal then, but possibly the best all-round Flute currently available. Antony Bye