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Review for Elektra - Philharmonic 1937 IPCD 1045-2
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Reviews for IPCD 1045-2


Concert version

Artur Rodzinski, cond; Rose Pauly (Elektra); Enid Szánthó (Klytämnestra); Charlotte Boerner (Chrysothemis); Julius Huehn (Orest); Frederick Jagel (Aegisthus); New York P O – IMMORTAL PERFORMANCES IPCD 1045-2 monaural (2 CDs: 150:47) Live recording: Carnegie Hall, 3/21/1937

Strauss ELEKTRA: Fragments (Kappel;Branzel; Ljungberg; Bodansky, cond) Live recording: Metropolitan Opera, 12/3/1932

Strauss DON JUAN. Two Songs. SALOME: Final Scene (Pauly; Barbirolli; New York P O). ÄGYPTISCHE HELENA: Excerpts (Pauly). ALLERSEELEN (Pauly; Reiner; Detroit S O)

Beethoven FIDELIO: Abscheulicher (Pauly)

Henry Fogel
FANFARE magazine
November/December 2014

Although the centerpiece of this two-disc release is the Elektra performance, some of the filler and bonus material is also of major value, particularly Richard Caniell’s near-miraculous restoration of the 78s with excerpts from Die Ägyptische Helena.

But it is the concert performance of Elektra, somewhat abridged by Rodzinski, that is the real reason for this set, and it is certainly worthy of attention. Rose Pauly was born in 1894. She was a hugely successful dramatic soprano in Germany in the 1930s, but had to leave as the Nazis rose to power. She re-started her career in the U.S. to some degree, and had three very successful seasons at the Met before going on to Buenos Aires and back to Europe. She then retired in Israel. She made very few recordings, and so we don’t think of her in the same way we think of other great dramatic sopranos of her day and the next generation—Flagstad, Leider, Lawrence, Varnay, Borkh and then Nilsson. This Elektra and the astonishing Salome final scene from a New York Philharmonic concert with Barbirolli in 1938 make clear that she is of the same caliber as any of them.

The vocal brilliance and steely power, combined with a sufficient warmth of tone to provide vocal beauty as well as sheer volume, are part of the picture. But of equal importance is her understanding and communication of the text. Pauly’s Elektra is never just note-spinning. Her rage and hatred are reflected in her tone, as is the ecstasy when she recognizes her brother. In her singing, consonants are as important as vowels, and specificity of diction and inflection are fully integrated into the act of singing in a way that is quite rare. To the pantheon of great Elektras, which certainly includes Nilsson, Varnay, and probably Borkh, one has to add Pauly. The cuts for this concert version are occasionally a bit disturbing, but not in a major way. Rodzinski’s dramatic, incisive way with the score is no surprise to those who know his conducting, and the other singers are more than adequate. For those to whom Elektra is an important work, it would be essential to get to know this recording, which has been restored to surprisingly good sound for a 1937 broadcast.

The excerpts from the 1938 all Strauss New York Philharmonic concert are valuable too, giving us more documentation of the art of John Barbirolli. His time as music director of the Philharmonic is often depicted as a failure, but every broadcast I hear from that period tells us something different. The performances are intelligently shaped, played with commitment, and the orchestral execution is at a high standard.

The Don Juan here is, perhaps, not the best example to make that case. It is very well played, to be sure, but at least the opening portion lacks drive and seems rather sectionalized. The lyrical music at the center is lovingly shaped, and things pull together after that. But the accompaniments to Pauly in the two songs (Verführung and Gesang der Apollopriesterin) are sensitive, and the singing is remarkably intimate for someone we just heard in such an overpowering Elektra. Then comes the other highlight of this set in addition to the Elektra: the final scene from Salome. Pauly manages to convey the sense, through vocal color and phrasing, that this girl is indeed a teenager. At the same time, she rides the orchestra with power. This is one of the great recording performances of this scene.

The excerpts from Die Ägyptische Helena are immensely valuable. Pauly was not the creator of the role (that honor went to Rethberg), but she sang all the subsequent performances in Dresden after the premiere, and learned the music from Strauss. The conducting strikingly beautiful—not surprising since it is Fritz Busch. These four scenes, as well as the Ford Hour broadcast from Detroit of Allerseelen with Reiner, are extremely gratifying extras in this set, as is the Fidelio aria, which gives us a younger Pauly (1927). Unless I have missed it, the conductor for the Fidelio scene is not given. Possibly he is not known.

Finally, we have about six minutes of a truly historic event: the Metropolitan Opera’s first-ever performance of Elektra, in 1932. It is nice to be able to listen into a piece of history like this, but between the dim sound and Gertrude Kappel’s rather thin and unsupported tone, there is not a lot of pleasure to be found, despite Karin Branzell and Göta Ljungberg’s brief appearances as Klytämnestra and Chrysothemis).

Immortal Performances’s usual high production standards apply. The transfers are all infinitely superior to what has been around before of this material. The essays by Caniell himself and by London Green are illuminating, stimulating, and models of what we would hope to find in historical re-issues but almost never do. And the artwork and photographs are up to the same level. The texts and translations of the two songs are given as well.


Concert version

Artur Rodzinski, cond; Rose Pauly (Elektra); Enid Szánthó (Klytämnestra); Charlotte Boerner (Chrysothemis); Julius Huehn (Orest); Frederick Jagel (Aegisthus); New York P O – IMMORTAL PERFORMANCES IPCD 1045-2 monaural (2 CDs: 150:47) Live recording: Carnegie Hall, 3/21/1937

& Allerseelen (Reiner, Detroit SO, 2/20/1938); Die Ägyptische Helena: excerpts (Pauly, Fritz Busch, Dresden Staatskapelle, 1928); BEETHOVEN Fidelio: “Abscheulicher!” (Pauly, Weissmann, Berlin St Op O, 11/9/1927)

Colin Clarke
FANFARE magazine
January / February 2015

As Richard Caniell points out in his booklet notes, Rose Pauly was the Elektra of the 1930s. It is easy to hear why: She has a voice that sounds as if it will never tire and that is shot through with the utmost intensity. This is the live performance in New York of the “concert version” with the great Rodzinski at the helm. Everything Pauly does is perfectly idiomatic, from the frenzied outbursts to her tender cries of “Orest!” (track 12). Perhaps Rodzinski is not as abandoned in some of the more outgoing moments (track 3, around the three-minute mark, perhaps), but his understanding of texture and detail is surely second to none. There is little or no orchestral blurring, and Pauly is certainly never sonically overwhelmed. Enid Szánthó as Klytämnestra is perhaps not in the same exalted league, sounding rather shrill. Huehn, however, is as dependable as always. It is Pauly’s show, although the orchestral playing is so overwhelmingly intense that Rodzinski must share the laurels. Richard Caniell’s 2014 restoration is almost a work of art in itself, rendering something always thought of as unavoidably uncomfortable sonically as if newly hewn. A major achievement, and that is not even taking into consideration the rest of the set.

The historical worth of the 1932 fragments of the Met premiere is of course a given. Kappel has something of Pauly’s intensity but, from what one can tell, Bodanzky cannot inspire his forces to Rodzinski’s heady heights. The second disc is a cornucopia of special Strauss, with a Beethoven “encore”: an all-Strauss program at a New York Philharmonic concert of February 27, 1938 plus the obligatory bonuses. Barbirolli’s Don Juan threatens towards the scrappy at times without ever going there, which is part of the edge-of-the-seat excitement. The lyrical sections seem to be timed perfectly, without ever losing drive. But of course it is the songs and opera we are here for, with the two from the op. 33 lyric outpourings, magnificently managed, that can hardly prepare one for the final scene of Salome. Here it appears is if the banshees of Hades are unleashed. The sheer intensity of the initial orchestra cry is unlike anything else on this set (yes, even in Elektra) and seems to sum up everything that the music is about. Pauly is predictably intense throughout, her shrill, cutting voice conveying all of Salome’s tormented ecstasy.

And so, on to those famous “bonuses.” A tender broadcast of “Allerseelen,” with the Detroit Symphony under Reiner, no less, prefaces four excerpts from the 1928 premiere recording of Die Ägyptische Helena with the Dresden Staatskapelle under Fritz Busch. “Helena’s Awakening” is a miracle of Straussian stillness, while the act II aria “Zweite Brautnacht” is glorious in its high-lying legato line, so perfectly spun (one thinks of Schwarzkopf in Strauss at moments like this, but Pauly does it so much better). Busch’s dark shading of the Funeral Music is unforgettable.

Finally, some Beethoven, a surprise in a nominally all-Strauss issue: “Abscheulicher!” from Beethoven’s Fidelio, taken from a Parlophone original which contains some charming orchestral contributions under the baton of Frieder Weissmann. It should be said that this whole set makes for some harrowing listening, but it is infinitely rewarding—just not for the faint-hearted.

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