The classic 1933 Lehmann abridged Rosenkavalier
In astonishingly open and vibrant XR-remastered sound
CD1 (Acts 1 & 2): Transfers from HMV 78s DB.2060-7 Matrices 32.4100-4115
And 2WX 501II, 587I, 588II, 589II, 601IIA, 594IIIA, 591II, 590IA, 592II, 603IIA, 597IIA, 582IIA, 583IVA, 602I, 596A, 598A
CD2 (Act 3): Transfers from HMV 78s DB.2068-72 Matrices 32.4124-5 and 32.4116-23
And 2WX 599IA, 595II, 605I, 604IIA, 593IA, 600IIIA, 595IIIA, 586IIA, 606II, 584IIA
The twenty-six sides which go to make up this recording are not the easiest to remaster. In his notes for the Naxos 2002 issue of the recording, Mark Obert-Thorn wrote: "Although recorded over a five-day period on twenty-six consecutive sides by HMV, this legendary abridged version of Der Rosenkavalier poses many problems for the restoration engineer." And a few days ago he confirmed this to me by e-mail: "my source discs ... came from about a half-dozen different copies (Victor Z, Victor Gold and Electrola), none of which was perfect all the way through. I had to use sides from each of the copies I had to do the transfer..."
The Naxos edition is of course still in print, and offers the prospective purchaser an alternative to this new XR-remastered release. Naturally both of our approaches at the remastering of a recording such as this are quite different in many respects, and I've been able to take advantage of a number of significant technological advances which were simply unavailable to the restoration engineer as recently as seven years ago.
Although my discs, which were a near-mint set of British HMV pressings, were in very good, clean condition, the effect of using XR to open up the top end - and it really does open up, with vocal harmonic extension at times reaching up to somwhere in the region of 10kHz, roughly double the expected frequency response for a set of 78s - is to reveal a plethora of other shortcomings in the discs which might previously have remained hidden, most prevelant of which on a good number of sides was the dreaded swish.
Swish on discs is a problem for which, until recently, there was little or no solution. The current state of technology, in 2009, is that we can either ameliorate or, often, completely 'zap' each swish in such a way that the music remains untouched. The downside of this latest technology is that one has to process a swish at a time, which on a recording of this length means over 9000 individual selections and interventions purely to tackle this issue. It's a laborious task, but one which I believe yields results which are worthwhile.
What you'll hear in this remastering is a sense of openness and clarity which has perhaps not been heard before in this recording. I've opted for as light a touch as possible with hiss and noise reduction - always a difficult balance to strike with a recording of this vintage - but I think the results speak for themselves.
Mark Obert-Thorn notes in his previous restoration a considerable variation between sides with regard to balance between soloists and orchestra and overall levels. I felt perhaps less aware of this after the re-equalisation of the recording in XR remastering, beyond the occasional sense that a singer may have taken a step closer to the microphone at one point or another - something which is to be expected in a staged opera, if not a studio recording. As such I let this pass, and did not attempt any adjustments of levels or perspective.
It's a marvellous recording - and one which I think this XR remastering manages to shine a refreshing new light on.
Technical notes by Andrew Rose
excerpt from original HMV booklet notes
The association of Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal began late in 1907 and ended only with the death of the poet in 193 z. The first fruit of this collaboration and friendship was Elektra, which was decided upon after there had been some planning with a view to writing an opera to be called Semiramis. The suggestion for Der Rosenkavalier came from von Hofmannsthal nearly a year after the first performance of Elektra. In a letter to Strauss dated November 11th, 1909, he wrote :
"Since I came here, I have spent three peaceful afternoons in writing the complete scenario for an absolutely new and original libretto. The situations are broadly comic, the action is varied and almost as obvious as a pantomime—there are opportunities for lyric passages, fun, humour, even for a short ballet. There are two big rôles, one for baritone, the other for a shapely wench in man's clothes — à la Farrar or Mary Garden. The place and period, Vienna in the time of Maria Theresa."
Strauss welcomed the idea and when, six months later, the draft of the first Act was sent to him he replied :
“Act I arrived yesterday—I am simply ravished by it; it really is extraordinarily charming, and so subtle—a little too subtle, perhaps, for the general public, but that doesn't matter.
The middle part (the levée scene) is not easy to put into shape, but I shall manage it all right—I have the whole summer before me.
The concluding scene is splendid—I have already had a shot at it—I only wish I had already got so far. But in order to preserve the symphonic unity I shall have to compose it all in the order in which it is written—so I must have patience.
Yes, it is certainly a delicious ‘ curtain ' — what a wonderful fellow you are !
When shall I have the rest of it? The characters are all excellent—so clearly cut ; only, as before, I shall need very good actors for them—the usual opera-singers wouldn't do at all.”
From Hofmannsthal's reply to this letter we can see that he had the whole character and future of the work in mind :
“I try with all my might to put myself in sympathy with the requirements, possibilities and stylistic canons of comic opera. If I succeed, as I confidently hope to do, the result will be something which, in its blending of the grotesque with the lyrical, will, to a certain extent, correspond with your artistic individuality—something which will be strong enough to keep, its place in the repertory for years, perhaps for decades. Act III I hope, will be the best of all—piquant at first, then burlesque, ending on a note of tenderness.”
He dismisses Strauss' doubts as to the popular nature of the work in these words :
“Your fear lest the work should prove too subtle does not disturb me. The progress of the action is simple and intelligible enough for even the most unsophisticated public : a fat, elderly, self-satisfied suitor, favoured by the lady's father, is supplanted by a handsome young fellow—surely simplicity could go no further. But the working-out of it must be, I fancy, as I have made it—entirely free from anything trivial and conventional ; for the lasting success of a piece depends upon the approval of the public as a whole—the finer no less than the coarser elements—and it is the former who create that prestige without which no piece can hope to live, any more than it can without a popular appeal.”
By the middle of June, Strauss was deeply engrossed in the music for the first act, and the whole composition progressed quickly. Naturally, several adjustments had to be made in the text and the music, but as we see from the correspondence between Hofmannsthal and Strauss, the partners co-operated with a smoothness unusual even in their relationship. At times Hofmannsthal proffered suggestions to Strauss for stressing of words, which the composer was quick to adopt: at others Strauss took an important part in the laying-out of the dramatic situations, particularly in the scenes between Sophie and Octavian in the second act, and in the arrival of the Princess in Act III. Several of the comic touches, too, were of Strauss' invention, among others the delicious anomaly of the Baron arriving at an assignation with one arm in a sling.
When the work was finished to the satisfaction of its creators, there were still difficulties to be overcome. The Censor took objection to the stage directions of the opening scene, and to certain of Ochs' comments on his amorous adventures. To these objections both Hofmannsthal and Strauss bowed, and the necessary alterations were made ; but the casting of the work occasioned great difficulty. Gutheil-Schoder canvassed anxiously for a part, and Perron, the Dresden bass who had created Jochanaan in the first production of Salome, was anxious to sing Ochs, but his natural sparseness of figure ruled him out. Had Pini-Corsi, the great Italian buffo, been at home in German, he might have created the role. Strauss had Richard Mayr, who is the best Ochs of to-day, in mind, but Mayr was unable to obtain the leave necessary for the study of the part. Since the success of the work depended in such great measure on the histrionic abilities of the Ochs, no chances could be taken, and eventually Paul Knüpfer, the greatest German acting bass of his time was selected.
The work was an immediate and overwhelming success. In spite of the high performing rights Strauss demanded, opera houses throughout Germany clamoured for permission to perform it, and to this day it not only holds its place in the repertoire, but is one of the safest drawing cards an opera house can play, for it is a favourite with all types of music lovers. It was first given in London on January 29th, 1913, at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, with the following cast :—
Marschallin... ... MARGARETE SIEMS
Octavian ... EVA VAN DER OSTEN
Sophie ... CLAIRE DUX
Ochs von Lerchenau ... PAUL KNOPFER
Faninal ... FREDERICK BRODERSEN
Conductor : THOMAS BEECHAM.
and in the autumn of the same year in English by the Denhof Company with CAROLINE HATCHARD, AGNES NICHOLLS, ELIZABETH SHILLALA, ARTHUR PACYNA and FREDERICK AUSTIN. Conductor : SCHILLING ZIEMSSEN.
Since 1924, Der Rosenkavalier has been one of the most popular works in the repertoire in England. In that season it was given at Covent Garden under Bruno Walter with a magnificent cast consisting of :—
Marschallin ... LOTTE LEHMANN
Sophie ... ELISABETH SCHUMANN
Octavian ... DELIA REINHARDT
Ochs ... RICHARD MAYR
and that cast with slight alterations (on two occasions FRIDA LEIDER as Marschallin, GITTA ALPAR and ADELE KERN as Sophie, MARGIT ANGERER, MARIA OLSZEWSKA and EVA HADRABOVA as Octavian ; PAUL BENDER and ALEXANDER KIPNIS as Ochs), has been the most consistently attractive non-Wagnerian production of post-War seasons. The work is dedicated to Strauss' relations—the Pschorr family—of Löwenbraü fame—of Munich.
For a proper appreciation of the full rich flavour of Der Rosenkavalier, it is essential for the listener to acquaint himself, not only with Strauss' music, but with von Hofmannsthal's text, which is published in England by Fürstner, at z/6. The very title page of the work :—
Comedy for Music by Hugo von Hofmannsthal
shows the importance which the creators attached to the book. Hofmannsthal provided Strauss with a libretto which would stand on its own as a play : it is a masterpiece of literary style, a consummate piece of dramatic craftsmanship. Away from the music, such scenes as those between the Marschallin and Octavian, the Marschallin's Monologue in the first act, between Sophie and her duenna, and Sophie and Octavian in the second, and the final scene of the last act, are deeply moving ; wedded to Strauss' music they represent the highest achievement in the setting of words to dramatic music in all opera. Only Hugo Wolf has excelled Strauss in finding the perfect musical phrase to intensify the meaning of words and at the same time give them their full syllabic values and proper cadences, so that they lie on the singers' lips as naturally as speech. In all, Der Rosenkavalier, in spite of occasional lapses, is the best opera that has been written since the death of Wagner. It is full of melody of exquisite loveliness, while its orchestration has no compeer outside Strauss' own works for richness, delicacy and appropriateness of texture. The waltz tunes which are generously sprinkled throughout its pages are among the best tunes of their type ever written. Der Rosenkavalier is in fact a great masterpiece. It is all things to all men : it has profundity, beauty, charm, wisdom, pathos, humour, fun, passion, exquisite sensitiveness, perfection of detail. Each one of us approaching it finds his own emotions reflected therein. The woman approaching middle age feels with the Marschallin in the first Act, and sees, perhaps, her own future in the Marschallin of the last Act ; the young woman sees herself in Sophie, the young man himself in Octavian ; the older man will perhaps feel a kinship to Ochs, and will sympathise with Faninal. Each one of us is complex enough in emotional make-up to feel sympathetically to most, if not all, of the characters, their strengths as well as their failings. We feel their joys and their sorrows ; we laugh, now with, now at them ; they have, like the opera of which they are a part, the intense humanness that is common to all great art.
Further Notes on the opera at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosenkavalier
Various scores from IMSLP: http://imslp.org/wiki/Der_Rosenkavalier,_Op.59_(Strauss,_Richard)
biographical notes from Wikipedia
Lotte Lehmann (February 27, 1888 – August 26, 1976) was a German soprano who was especially associated with German repertory. She gave memorable performances in the operas of Richard Strauss; the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier was considered her greatest role. During her long career, Lehmann also made more than five hundred recordings.
Lehmann was born in Perleberg. After studying in Berlin with Mathilde Mallinger, she made her debut in Hamburg Opera in 1910 as a Page in Wagner's Lohengrin. In 1914, she sang for the first time in, and in 1916 joined, the Vienna State Opera, where she sang in the premieres of a number of Strauss's operas, Ariadne auf Naxos (1916), Die Frau ohne Schatten (1919), Intermezzo (1924), and Arabella (1933) as well as Vienna premieres of several operas of Puccini. Lehmann made her debut in London in 1914, and from 1924 to 1935 she performed regularly at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
She also appeared regularly at the Salzburg Festival (1926-1937), performing with Arturo Toscanini, among other conductors. She also gave recitals there accompanied at the piano by the conductor Bruno Walter. In 1936, while in Salzburg, she discovered the Trapp Family Singers (of 'the Sound of Music' fame) and persuaded them to their first public performance.
In 1930, Lehmann made her US debut in Chicago as Sieglinde in Wagner's Die Walküre. Lehmann's other Wagnerian roles included Eva in Die Meistersinger, Elsa in Lohengrin, and Elisabeth in Tannhäuser; she was also famous for her interpretation of Leonore in Beethoven's Fidelio. Just before Austria was annexed by Germany in 1938, Lehmann emigrated to the United States, where she sang at the San Francisco Opera and the Metropolitan Opera until 1945.
In addition to her operatic work, Lehmann was a renowned singer of lieder, giving frequent recitals throughout her career. Beginning with her first recital tour to Australia in 1937, she worked closely with the accompianist Paul Ulanowsky. He remained her primary accompianist for concerts and masterclasses up until her retirement fourteen years later.
After her retirement from the recital stage in 1951, Lehmann taught master classes at the Music Academy of Santa Barbara, California, which she helped found in 1947. She also gave master classes in Chicago, London, Vienna etc. For her contribution to the recording industry, Lehmann has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1735 Vine St. However, her first name was misspelled as "Lottie."
She was a prolific writer, publishing a book of poems Verse in Prosa in the early 1920s, a novel, Orplid, mein Land (1937), translated as Eternal Flight (1937) and a book of memoirs, Anfang und Aufstieg (1937), translated as On Wings of Song (UK 1938) and as Midway in My Song (US 1938); a book on the interpretation of song, More Than Singing (1945); My Many Lives (1948), a book on the interpretation of opera roles. Later books include Five Operas and Richard Strauss also titled Singing with Richard Strauss (UK) (1964); a second book of poems Gedichte (1969) and Eighteen Song Cycles (1971) which was largely taken from earlier books.
Biographies of Lehmann include: Lotte Lehmann...mehr als eine Sängerin by Wessling (1969); Lotte Lehmann: A Life in Opera and Song by Glass (1988); Lotte Lehmann: 1888-1976 A Centenary Biography by Jefferson (1988), translated into German as Lotte Lehmann: Eine Biographie (1991); Never Sang for Hitler: The Life and Times of Lotte Lehmann by Kater (2008).
Lehmann died in 1976 age 88 in Santa Barbara, California. She is interred in the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna, Austria.
The Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall on the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara was named in her honor.
The Lotte Lehmann Foundation was begun in 1995 with the dual missions to preserve and perpetuate Lotte Lehmann's legacy, and to honor her dream of bringing art song into the lives of as many people as possible.
Notes from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotte_Lehmann