WORKS: Arabella; Ariadne auf Naxos; Capriccio; Daphne; Elektra; Die Frau ohne Schatten; Der Rosenkavalier; Salome; Die schweigsame Frau
PERFORMER: Various soloists & orchestras/Karl Bohm
CATALOGUE NO: 445 491-2 ADD mono/stereo (1947-77)
Karl Bohm was born in August 1894, and to celebrate his centenary, DG has released a box of his recordings of nine of Strauss’s operas (also available singly). Their provenance is varied: two are studio accounts, four are live Salzburg Festival recordings and others come from performances in Hamburg and Vienna. Three – Arabella (DG 445 342-2, Z081), Die schweigsame Frau (DG 445 335-2, Z079) and Ariadne auf Naxos (DG 445 332-2, Z078) -are in mono and nearly all are subject to traditional stage cuts.
This diversity inevitably results in issues of varying value, though all show why Bohm was revered as a Strauss conductor, with his attention to detail, loving shaping of orchestral sound and ability to summon up white-hot dramatic fire. But the studio Elektra (with Inge Borkh, DG 445 329-2, Z075), comes nowhere near the hypertense Solti (Decca), nor is the poor stage-pit balance in the live 1969 Salzburg Rosenkavalier (DG 445 338-2, Z080) quite mitigated by its cast – Christa Ludwig, Tatiana Troyanos and Edith Mathis. On the other hand, a live 1970 Hamburg Salome (DG 445 319-2, Z076) can compete with any, in a thrilling performance featuring an unusually steady (and young-sounding) Gwyneth Jones.
As well as being a monument to Bohm’s Strauss, these recordings celebrate many of the greatest Straussian singers of the mid-century, from the young Lisa della Casa as Zdenka in a 1947 Salzburg Festival Arabella (poorly balanced) to Gundula Janowitz’s Countess in a studio Capriccio (DG 445 347-2, Z082) and one of Birgit Nilsson’s last recorded roles as the Dyer’s Wife in a splendid 1977 Vienna State Opera Die Frau ohne Schatten (DG 445 325-2, Z124). Della Casa also reappears in the title role of a 1954 Salzburg Ariadne (better balanced than Arabella), while the lithe Zerbinetta in that performance, Hilde Gueden, is also Aminta in one of the highlights of this issue, a 1959 Salzburg performance of the unjusdy neglected comedy Die schweigsame Frau (also boasting Hans Hotter as Dr Morosus in what is its only available recording), and she sings the tide role in a beautifully shaped 1964 Vienna Daphne (DG 445 322-2, Z077).
Also to mark the anniversary, Philips has re-released Bohm’s distinguished 1966-67 live Bayreuth Ringcyde in a limited-edition, bargain-price, 14-disc set, without libretto, but in a box taking up only 3cm of shelf space (Philips 446 057-2, Z125). Matthew Rye