KIRSTEN FLAGSTAD - The Supreme Wagnerian Soprano
TITO GOBBI - Complete Solo Recordings
Here are three more major budget-priced issues in EMI Classics' ICON series. Probably most collectors will already own most of these recordings, but here is an opportunity to have them in these huge collections. Limited program notes, and no texts or translations, but complete recording information and provenance are provided. In both the Flagstad and Gobbi issues we have excerpts from some of their major complete opera recordings. For most collectors, the Beniamino Gigli set will be most valuable; many of these recordings are available elsewhere but at full-price, and Mark Obert-Thorn's multiple-CD Naxos recordings unfortunately are not available in the U.S.
Profil's issue of Carl Orff's Antigonae is an important issue. Orff's scenic cantata Carmina Burana, his setting of a group of medieval poems, created a sensation when premiered in 1937. Carmina Burana actually is the first part of a trilogy Trionfi; the second, Catulli Carmina was written in 1943, the third part, Trionfo di Afrodite, followed in 1953. Superb recordings of Orff's two early operas, Der Mond (1939) and Die Kluge (1943) recently were reissued (REVIEW), but many recordings made over the years of other major works today have limited availability. Orff wrote a number of big-scale theater works. Antigonae was his third "opera," composed in 1949. This telling of the Sophocles tragedy is a series of mostly spoken narratives, accompanied by an orchestra of 9 double basses, 6 each of flutes and oboes, 6 pianos, 4 harps and a huge arsenal of percussion. Antigonae is not as accessible as Orff's best-known works—don't look for "arias" and audience-pleasing harmonies.The tragic story is related with brutal intensity punctuated by frequent percussive accents. Ferenc Fricsay conducted the 1949 premiere, and later performances were directed by Joseph Keilberth and Georg Solti; the latter, a live performance from from the 1951 Salzburg Festival (with Christel Goltz) is currently available on Orfeo D'or. Now we have this extraordinary Munich radio performance dating from 1958 conducted by Orff specialist Wolfgang Sawallisch, who also directed the recent reissues of Der Mond and Die Kluge. The cast, headed by Martha Mödl, is superlative. Unfortunately CD information does not include texts or a track by track description, which surely would have been helpful. The 1958 recording is well balanced and easily accommodates the big percussive moments. This is an important issue.
R.E.B. (March 2010)