Mozart: Die Zauberflöte

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Die Zauberflöte
PERFORMER: Josef Greindl, Anton Dermota, Erich Kunz, Wilma Lipp, Irmgard Seefried; Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna PO/Wilhelm Furtwängler
CATALOGUE NO: CHS 5 65356 2 ADD mono
This live recording from the 1951 Salzburg Festival is in a special category. It is by no means the best available performance of Mozart’s glorious pantomime-opera, but it is valuable as a memento of those early postwar years when vocal standards in Vienna and Salzburg were so incredibly high. Irmgard Seefried’s Pamina is exquisitely sung and most movingly characterised, while Erich Kunz’s engaging Viennese Papageno is very much in the tradition of Emanuel Schikaneder, the opera’s librettist and its first Papageno.

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Wilma Lipp as the Queen of the Night is hampered in her first aria by the conductor’s funereal tempo but is superb thereafter, and Josef Greindl is an impressive Sarastro. As Tamino, Anton Dermota – another victim of Furtwängler’s tempi, which range from the stately to the somnolent – is not heard at his best.

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To criticise Furtwängler may seem to be an act of lèse-majesté, but this great interpreter of Beethoven and Brahms was not really comfortable with Mozart. His approach to The Magic Flute is excessively solemn, and his habit of ending numbers in incredibly long-drawn-out rallentandi is more than a trifle wearisome. Still this recording is worth having for the performances of Seefried and Kunz, for its live performance atmosphere and for some glorious playing by the Vienna Philharmonic. Charles Osborne