Tannhauser  (Elmendorff;  Pilinszky, Muller, Andresen, Janssen)   (2-Naxos 8.110094/95)
Item# OP0122
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Tannhauser  (Elmendorff;  Pilinszky, Muller, Andresen, Janssen)   (2-Naxos 8.110094/95)
OP0122. TANNH�USER, recorded 1930, Bayreuth, w.Elmendorff Cond. Bayreuth Festspiele Ensemble; Sigismund Pilinszky, Maria M�ller, Ruth Jost-Arden, Ivar Andr�sen, Herbert Janssen, etc. (E.U.) 2-Naxos 8.110094/95. Transfers by Ward Marston. Final Sealed Copy! - 636943109427

CRITIC REVIEW:

"In 1927 the Columbia Graphophone Company recorded excerpts from PARSIFAL in the Festspielhaus, Bayreuth. This marked a turning-point in the story of �location� recording and, keen to capitalise on the success of their first efforts in Wagner�s theatre, in 1928 the company�s engineers were able to set down sizeable extracts from TRISTAN UND ISOLDE conducted by Karl Elmendorff. Spurred on by yet more favourable reviews, in 1930 Columbia planned to make an abridged set, on thirty-six 78 rpm sides, of the composer's son Siegfried Wagner�s new production of TANNH�USER, conducted by Arturo Toscanini; but because of his contract with Victor Records, Toscanini was unable to participate in the project and Elmendorff was invited to conduct instead. These are not records of 'live' performances, but were made during August in the empty theatre, and comprise about four fifths of the score. The tricky job of deciding on the cuts was undertaken by the celebrated critic Ernest Newman, whose knowledge and understanding of Wagner's music was almost second to none, and by Siegfried Wagner. Siegfried's death, during the very month of recording, and that of his mother Cosima four months earlier, must have cast a shadow over the whole proceedings but the sessions went ahead nevertheless. Musically the results were magnificent, hardly surprising in view of the fine cast and experienced conductor that were assembled; and by 1930 Columbia�s technical expertise ensured that, even in the spacious empty theatre, such large orchestral and choral forces would transfer successfully to wax.

Of the five principals, M�ller, Jost-Arden, Pilinszky, Janssen and Andr�sen, four were making their Bayreuth debuts in this new production of TANNH�USER - only Andr�sen had sung there previously. It was also Toscanini�s first season there (he returned the following year, but never subsequently conducted at the Festival) and his influence is naturally seen in the selection of singers. He was keen to establish his mark on the new production, perhaps rejecting some of Bayreuth's regular team in order to do so. Although he did not conduct the recording, Toscanini's influence is sensed throughout, though Elmendorff was himself a greatly admired musician and must be given the credit for leading such a fine recorded performance. The orchestra plays magnificently, albeit in a style considered old-fashioned today; but it was the fashion then, and we are fortunate even to be able to make the comparison.

The cuts imposed on the set are not unduly serious, and none of the best known numbers are affected (though the famous Entry of the Guests in Act 2 is abbreviated). One complete, short, scene is omitted (Act 2, Scene 3) and several other sections are excised (the Landgrave's introduction to the Song Contest is one). Happily the first act is complete, thus allowing us to hear the most significant of Wagner�s �Paris� amendments in full.

Sigismund Pilinszky was born in Budapest in 1891 and died there in 1957. He studied at the Budapest Conservatory and later in Leipzig and Berlin. He made his operatic debut in Miskolc in north-eastern Hungary, and from 1913 sang at the National Opera in the capital. In 1928 Pilinszky was John in Meyerbeer�s LE PROPH�TE in Berlin and in 1930-1 sang Tannh�user at Bayreuth. He travelled extensively as a guest tenor to Vienna, London, Chicago and San Francisco but returned to Budapest and, in retirement, became a teacher. His rather nasal voice has, however, great resonance and heroic power.

Maria M�ller was born in Theresienstadt in 1898 and trained at Prague Conservatory and in Vienna. Her debut, as Elsa, was at Linz in 1919 and from 1925 to 1935 she appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, singing roles by Mozart, Wagner, Smetana, Verdi and Strauss among others. M�ller sang regularly in Berlin from 1926, at Covent Garden, in Vienna, Milan, Paris and Salzburg. From 1930 she was a frequent visitor to Bayreuth, where her clear lyric soprano was highly regarded, and she retired there after her final performances in Berlin in 1952. She died in Bayreuth in 1958.

Ruth Jost-Arden was born in Berlin in 1899 and died in Bayreuth in 1985. She began her career as a concert soprano in North America, where she was heard by Toscanini and chosen for Bayreuth�s new production of TANNH�USER in 1930. Roles that Jost-Arden sang in Cologne from 1931-1940 include Isolde, Br�nnhilde, Kundry, Elektra, Salome and Leonore and, in 1933, the lead at the premi�re of Siegfried Wagner�s opera DER HEIDENK�NIG. Her bright, fresh tone was surely warmly welcomed there in such a dramatic repertory; as guest artist, Jost-Arden appeared in Paris, Milan, Venice, Brussels, New York and Boston.

Herbert Janssen, born in Cologne in 1892, made his d�but in 1922 at the Berlin Staatsoper. He remained with the company until 1938 when he left Germany and moved to the United States. Janssen sang the lighter Wagnerian baritone roles."

- Naxos



"Herbert Janssen - with his plangent, fine-grained voice, keen intelligence, aristocratic musicianship, and (not incidentally) handsome appearance - was the leading German baritone in several major theatres during the 1920s and 1930s. After study with Oskar Daniel in Berlin he was immediately accepted by Max von Schillings for the Berlin State Opera, where he made his debut in 1922 as Herod in Schreker's DER SCHATZGRABER . He remained at the Berlin State Opera until 1937 singing both lyric and dramatic roles, many of them in the Italian repertory. He later appeared in important productions of DER FLIEGENDE HOLLANDER and TRISTAN UND ISOLDE at Covent Garden conducted by Reiner and Beecham, also singing Orest / ELEKTRA and in 1935 taking the title role in Borodin's PRINCE IGOR, for which he was highly praised.

Janssen was a fixture at the Bayreuth Festival from 1930 to 1937. His Wolfram in TANNHAUSER set a standard not approached since, and, fortunately, it was recorded in a somewhat truncated 1930 production. During that decade, he established benchmarks for several Wagner roles, particularly Kurwenal, Telramund, Gunther, and - especially - Amfortas. His interpretation of the latter was an exquisitely sung realization of a soul in torment, achieving a remarkable unity of voice, movement, and makeup. His doggedly loyal Kurwenal is preserved on complete recordings of TRISTAN UND ISOLDE made live at Covent Garden in 1936 and 1937. His tortured Dutchman is also available in a live recording made at Covent Garden and featuring Kirsten Flagstad as Senta.

In addition to his stage work, Janssen acquired a reputation as a superior singer of Lieder. The exceptional beauty of his voice and his interpretive acuity made him a prime candidate for Walter Legge's Hugo Wolf Society venture of the 1930s. Among the finest singers Legge could pull together, Janssen was given the largest assignment and his subscription recordings made throughout the decade remain supreme, even in the face of the best achievements of post-war Lieder singers.

Janssen was very unpopular with the Nazi regime, having turned down a dinner invitation from Hitler at Bayreuth, Janssen left Germany in 1937 and with Toscanini's assistance traveled immediately to Buenos Aires. After a season in Argentina, he came to the United States where he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1939, remaining at that theater until his stage retirement in 1952.

From 1940 onwards Janssen sang regularly at Buenos Aires and with the San Francisco Opera between 1945 and 1951. Following his retirement in 1952, he remained in New York as a respected teacher.

Janssen's performances were notable for the warm and sympathetic timbre of his voice, his excellent command of legato and clear enunciation, as well as his convincing acting. Also a highly accomplished lieder singer, he had in addition starred in the musical DREI MUSKETIERE at the Metropol Theatre in Berlin during 1928 opposite Gota Ljungberg."

- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com