Culture Magazine

Old-School Mozart: The 1950 Karajan Vienna Recordings

By Superconductor @ppelkonen

Old-School Mozart: The 1950 Karajan Vienna Recordings

The Man, the Maestro: Herbert von Karajan. © Universal Classics.

These two recordings of Mozart operas: Le Nozze di Figaro and Die Zauberflöte, rank among the earliest LP recordings of an entire opera in a recording studio. (Decca recorded Die Meistersinger in 1950 with Hans Knappertsbusch, but that's another column.) They are also the first two complete recordings led by Herbert von Karajan, at the start of his long association with the EMI label.
Both of these sets were made in Vienna in 1950. They are from the early days of LP records, and are in mono sound. (Stereo recording was invented in 1952)
As such, they offer the listener the chance to hear the Austrian conductor at his warmest and most innovative.
Vienna Philharmonic cond. Herbert von Karajan (EMI, 1950)

Old-School Mozart: The 1950 Karajan Vienna Recordings

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.
Photo by Fayer © EMI Classics


Le Nozze di Figaro
Figaro: Erich Kunz
Susanna: Irmgard Seefried
The Countess: Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
Count Almaviva: George London
Cherubino: Sena Jurinac
Die Zauberflöte
Sarastro: Ludwig Weber
The Queen of the Night: Wilma Lipp
Tamino: Anton Dermota
Pamina: Irmgard Seefried
Papagena Erich Kunz
Figaro was made in June and October of 1950. Erich Kunz is a dark-timbred, sardonic valet, who switches over to warm tone in his intimate scenes with Irmgard Seefried's terrific, pert Susanna. Selena Juranac is a fully embodied Cherubino. It is not an insult to say that this trouser role is sung with boyish enthusiasm. The ensembles bloom with warmth, especially in the second act.

An excerpt: Selena Juranac sing "Non s piu cosa son, cosa faccio" from Act I of Figaro. © 1950, EMI ClassicsGeorge London sings the Count with real menace in the early acts, which melts away at the opera's climax in Act IV. Karajan slows down the tempo for their reconciliation scene, allowing Elisabeth Schwarzkopf to really shine in the final ensemble. She is a marvel here, helped by Karajan's choice of dead-slow tempos whenever she sings.
The Flute was laid down in November of that same year. Karajan takes an even slower tempo here, especially with the three stately chords that launch the Overture. Other key moments in the score: the March of the Priests, the Two Men in Armor scene are rendered in vivid color by the Viennese forces. The choral singing is firm and well-caught.
This set features essentially the same cast (with the subtraction of Ms. Schwarzkopf and the substitution of Wilma Lipp as the Queen of the Night.) And it's a good one. Anton Dermota and Ms. Seefried are an engaging, ideal pair as Tamino and Pamina. He really sounds panicked in "Zu hilfe," and his fine characterization continues throughout. She is warm in "Bei Mannern", reunited (temporarily) with her Figaro, Erich Kunz, now in the role of Papageno.
Mr. Kunz may be no match for later bird-catchers (the role became a favorite of lieder singers in the stereo era) but he is bluff and good-natured. (I'd love to hear him in the opera's comic dialogue.) Ludwig Weber is an authoritative, but not authoritarian Sarastro. This recording captures the Wagner veteran in fine form just before the re-opening of the Bayreuth Festival the following year.
Both recordings feature the Vienna Philharmonic in top post-war form, playing with warmth and their unique, characteristic timbre. And despite being six decades old, the engineering is excellent, from the rattling tone of the timpani to the warm tone of the singers. The distinctive Vienna brass and wind are also captured with clarity on these CD remasters.
There are a few drawbacks. Figaro is missing ALL of the recitatives, which means you have to know the opera to follow the plot. The same goes for Zauberflöte, as no attempt is made to record the spoken dialogue between scenes. A libretto is helpful when listening if you don't know the operas.

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Chic Engagement Session in Positano

    Chic Engagement Session Positano

    Chic Stylish Weddings Chic Stylish Weddings - We are sharing today a gorgeous engagement session in Positano, Italy! From the stylish couple to the moody... Read more

    6 hours, 13 minutes ago by   Eleni Balkouli
    LIFESTYLE, TRAVEL, WEDDING
  • Carpe Carmina Celebrates X (feat. Aaron Shanley)

    Carpe Carmina Celebrates (feat. Aaron Shanley)

    'Honey, don't be sad, it's just the way it goes ...' and even it's been a blast to share musical dedications and stunning exclusives with you throughout june,... Read more

    6 hours, 23 minutes ago by   Vanessa Holthausen
    ENTERTAINMENT, MUSIC
  • D Denver Deodorant Body Spray Imperial Hamilton Review

    Denver Deodorant Body Spray Imperial Hamilton Review

    Rainy Days And Summer defiantly make all men sweat more and thus smelly too. So guys don’t put off your girls’ mood by sweat and bad smell! This can actually... Read more

    9 hours, 32 minutes ago by   Jayshreebhagat
    HAIR & BEAUTY
  • Creamy Spinach & Mushroom Gnocchi

    Creamy Spinach Mushroom Gnocchi

    I just adore Gnocci . . . those delicious little Italian potato dumplings that combine my adoration of potatoes and pasta in the most perfectly delicious way!... Read more

    11 hours, 23 minutes ago by   Mariealicerayner
    FOOD & DRINK, RECIPES
  • The Big Fat Summer Post 2017

    Summer Post 2017

    This post covers the next month while I am on holiday (even bloggers need a break from time to time). The first section lists some ongoing activities, whilst th... Read more

    11 hours, 24 minutes ago by   Nessascityblog
    DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL
  • XYB.com Sold for $100,000

    Namerpros member BetTheLot (Graham Haynes) announced on Namepros that he sold XYB.com for $100,000. The transaction was completed with a broker named Ivy at... Read more

    12 hours, 15 minutes ago by   Worldwide
    BUSINESS, TECH
  • No, Virginia…..All Black People Don’t Look Alike (GA Reflection #1)

    Well...GA is over. I'm actually kinda sad about that. anyway..... Situation #1- After the Service of the Living Tradition on Thursday night, while talking to... Read more

    13 hours, 2 minutes ago by   Eastofmidnight
    POLITICS, SOCIETY