Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Strauss
LABELS: Gala
WORKS: Der Rosenkavalier
PERFORMER: Gundula Janowitz, Yvonne Minton, Lucia Popp, Kurt Moll, Ernst Gutstein; Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna PO/ Christoph von Dohnányi
CATALOGUE NO: GL 100.610 ADD Reissue (1978)
A Salzburg Festival opening night (July 1978), but, intriguingly for this opera here, everything is as un-Karajan-ish as could be. Dohnányi takes a dark, serious view of the score: Rosenkavalier as follow-up to Elektra. He plays up the ‘wrong’ harmonies and makes the circus music accompanying the spooking of Ochs at the Act III inn into a clear precursor of the interludes in Frau ohne Schatten, while accompanying the voices beautifully (this comes from a live radio original but the complex text can be heard as if in a studio) and securing the tightest of ensembles.

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Janowitz’s piping, bright tones make her sound the young woman in her thirties that Strauss and Hofmannsthal wanted; this lighter-than-usual Marschallin is only really pressured at the peaks of the Act I dispute with Octavian and the great Trio. Popp is on sovereign, pure form; Minton (by her own standards) a bit erratic, but making a good fist of both the Act III comedy and the love music. Moll, in evidently close collaboration with Dohnányi, sings Ochs throughout; he is bizarre, tactless, but never a buffoon. The experienced Viennese comprimarii have dug newly deep for their conductor; only the Italian Tenor (one Luciano Pavarotti) sounds self-consciously out of place.

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The sound is bright, forward and bassy (a bold transfer by Gala) with the odd flutter near the starts of Acts II and III. Enthusiastic notes are provided, but no libretto or synopsis. The Kleiber family may still lead the field on disc but this set is well worth a detour. Mike Ashman