WORKS: Der Sturz des Antichrist
PERFORMER: Ulrich Neuweiler, Richard Decker, Monte Jaffe; Bielefeld Opera Chorus, Bielefeld PO/Rainer Koch
CATALOGUE NO: 999 321-2
There seems no end to the rediscoveries of late-Romantic Germanic opera. Recent CD issues of Korngold, Schreker, Schulhoff and others have shown that there was far more going on in the early decades of the century than just Strauss’s operas, though many of these composers were to be silenced or displaced by the Nazi regime.
Viktor Ullmann’s opera Der Kaiser von Atlantis, written in Terezín concentration camp two years before his death at Auschwitz in 1944, has already appeared in Decca’s Entartete Musik series. The Fall of the Antichrist is an earlier work, written in 1935, but, given its subject of the fall of a totalitarian tyranny, unsurprisingly not performed in Ullmann’s lifetime. Musically, the opera recalls Mahler and the opulently Romantic early style of Ullmann’s teacher, Schoenberg. It had to wait until last year for its premiere production, by the adventurous provincial German opera company at Bielefeld, where this live recording was made. The result on CD is admirably clean-cut and untroubled by extraneous noise, though the orchestral sound could do with more bloom. The performance reveals the strength of the Bielefeld company, from vocal soloists to the orchestra. Matthew Rye