Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: Der Rosenkavalier
PERFORMER: Lisa della Casa, Sena Jurinac, Hilde Gueden, Otto Edelmann; Vienna PO/Herbert von Karajan
This 1960 recording, the gala performance which opened the Salzburg Festspielhaus, brings together two of the principals from Erich Kleiber’s Decca Rosenkavalier of 1954 (Sena Jurinac as Octavian and Hilde Gueden as Sophie) with the conductor (Karajan) and Ochs (Otto Edelmann) from the 1956 EMI set. That leaves only the Marschallin as an unknown quantity, and Lisa della Casa proves to be a treasurable exponent of the role; in particular, her monologue at the end of Act I possesses real dignity. Jurinac remains one of the finest Octavians – she’s fully inside the dramatic demands of the role, and vocal assurance gives her singing enough energy to compensate for sometimes fruity tone. Gueden does not come across as enough of an ingénue and whoops her way up to high notes. In this live context, Edelmann’s Ochs has impressive dramatic shape, and Karajan’s contribution is rather different from his EMI account – there’s more large-scale sweep and he’s less inclined to make delicate moments overly precious. The Vienna Philharmonic seems at something less than its impressive best, in part because the recording lacks blend and richness. Hardly a first recommendation, this set nevertheless offers pleasures for neophyte and expert alike. David Breckbill