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Strauss: Der Zigeunerbaron - Foster

Strauss: Der Zigeunerbaron - Foster

PentaTone Classics  PTC 5186482 (2 discs)

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Opera


Johann Strauss Jr.: Der Zigeunerbaron (1886 version)

Sándor Barinkay: Nikolai Schukoff (tenor)
Kálmán Zsupán: Jochen Schmeckenbecher (baritone)
Graf Homonay: Markus Brück (baritone)
Arsena: Jasmina Sakr (soprano)
Saffi: Claudia Barainsky (soprano)
Conte Carnero: Heinz Zednik (tenor)
Ottokar/Pali: Paul Kaufmann (tenor)
Czipra: Khatuna Mikaberidze (mezzo)
Mirabella: Renate Pitscheider (soprano)
NDR Chor
NDR Philharmonie
Lawrence Foster (conductor)


Johann Strauss Jr. is the most prominent member of the famous musical Strauss family and with more than 500 dance compositions to his name, became known as ‘The Waltz King’. While conducting the world première of his operetta Der Zigeunerbaron at the Theater an der Wien on 24 October 1885, Strauss junior lived one of, if not the biggest, stage successes of his career. Der Zigeunerbaron received 87 successive performances, which made it even more successful than Die Fledermaus and during the composer’s lifetime alone, the operetta was performed in more than 140 theatres. Originally Strauss intended to perform the 3 act operetta, on a libretto by Ignaz Schnitzer, at the Vienna Court Opera,rather than the Theater an der Wien. Even though this didn’t work out for contractual reasons, it may be seen as a reflection of the composer’s ambition to outgrow the dance hall. Der Zigeunerbaron clearly is a much more dramatic piece than Die Fledermaus and is by many considered to be a comic opera, instead of a genuine operetta. Johann Strauss junior forever stayed The Waltz King, but Der Zigeunerbaron became a success until present day. With the release of this 2-SACD album, now to be enjoyed in a splendid May 2015 recording by the NDR Radiophilharmonie and the NDR Chor conducted by Lawrence Foster.

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Review by John Broggio - May 22, 2016

All in all, this is an enjoyable outing of some delicious melodies.

In the overture, Lawrence Foster does his best to encourage the NDR Philharmonie to pull off a passable impression of their more famous Viennese cousins and very nearly succeeds. Indeed, the accelerando sections are remarkably echt-Viennese but the level of refinement and poetry in the wind solos doesn't quite live up to the standards of the New Years Day concerts (but this is really nit-picking). The same is true for most, if not quite all of the vocal soloists; too many characters give a performance that is sometimes strained. I should not overstress these criticisms, for each role is delivered with at least some degree of vocal honey for the majority of the time. The chorus is absolutely first class throughout and one is tempted to wonder if soloists from within this ensemble might have been at least as successful (as several from Gardiner's Monteverdi Choir have proven).

The audience is practically inaudible throughout, which is in part a reflection of the rather close but wonderfully clear recording (a rather different sonic picture from that usually granted to, say, the RNO by Pentatone); such close scrutiny doesn't help the relative weaknesses alluded to above and it robs the music of the warmth most people associate with this repertoire having heard it. There are good notes and a translation from German to English is provided - a useful bonus in the dialogues.

Despite the reservations noted above, this has returned to my system with some frequency since it arrived and still yields a good amount of pleasure on repeated listening, even though one won't hear, for example, the equivalent beauty of a young Schwarzkopf. Foster shows a real and genuine affinity for this repertoire and coaxes a warm response from this orchestra in music that is overflowing with wonderful tunes and this alone makes it recommendable albeit with some rather large caveats.

Copyright © 2016 John Broggio and HRAudio.net

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