STRAUSS, JOHANN: DER ZIGEUNERBARON (2 CDs)
This is an uncommonly interesting and enjoyable release. The extra music comes because Harnoncourt and Johann Strauss specialist Norbert Linke have sought to restore Der Zigeunerbaron to the form it had before Strauss made various cuts. The real merits of the set lie elsewhere. Not least, Harnoncourt has stripped away generations of Viennese Schmaltz and performing tradition.
This is the first recording to include every number of the published score, and for once the music is sung at its original pitch, without the usual downward transpositions for Zsupán and Homonay. Most particularly Harnoncourt has completely rethought the style of the performance. Der Zigeunerbaron is a long work, described as 'Komische Oper' rather than 'Operette', and much of its music is unusually solid for Strauss. Harnoncourt gives the major numbers their full weight, phrasing them beautifully, and drawing refined singing from the soloists, among whom Herbert Lippert and Pamela Coburn combine beautifully in the duet 'Wer uns getraut?', and Christiane Oelze is a delectably sweet Arsena. The necessary light relief comes not only from Zsupán (Rudolf Schasching in fine voice) but from usually omitted subsidiary numbers. Elisabeth von Magnus sings Mirabella's 'Just sind es vierundzwanzig Jahre' with exhilarating comic zest, and joins with Jürgen Flimm (more actor than singer) to make the trio 'Nur keusch und rein' an irresistible delight. The live recording comes with some audience laughter and coughs but with the applause suppressed. This deserves to win new admirers both for Harnoncourt and for Strauss's masterly score.
Strauss, J, II: Der Zigeunerbaron
Herbert Lippert, Pamela Coburn, Wolfgang Holzmair
Schoenberg Choir, Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Nicolaus Harnoncourt