OP0033. DAS WUNDER DER HELIANE (Korngold), recorded 1992, w.Mauceri Cond. Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra & Berlin Radio Chorus; Anna Tomowa-Sintow, René Pape, Reinhart Gröschel, Gotthold Schwarz, Julian Metzger, Andreas Scholz, Reinhild Runkel, John David De Haan, Hartmut Welker, Nicolai Gedda, Martin Petzold, Ralph Eschrig, Josef Becker, Regine Gebhardt & Regina Schudel. (E.U.) 3-Decca 475 8271, w.Elaborate 128pp. Libretto-Brochure. Final Copy! - 028947582717
“As part of Decca's acclaimed Entartete series devoted to either suppressed or forbidden music during the first half of the 20th century, Korngold's notorious Opera DAS WUNDER DER HELIANE composed in 1927 recieves its premier recording here. Korngold's ravishing orchestration heightens the combination of mystical, erotic, religious and philosophical themes that abound throughout the piece. All interested with music in particular and the arts in general of this period this will certainly find much to enjoy here.
A bold, interesting issue. Korngold's previous opera, DIE TOTE STADT, has been revived with success, but he thought DAS WUNDER DER HELIANE his masterpiece. All that most people know of it is the emotional ‘Ich ging zu ihm’, recorded by Lotte Lehmann, the first Vienna Heliane. The opera appeared in 1927, the year also of JONNY SPIELT AUF and OEDIPUS REX. It made the rounds for a while, but not as widely as DIE TOTE STADT. Korngold - no longer the wonder-child praised by Mahler, Strauss, Puccini and Ernest Newman; conducted by Nikisch, Weingartner and Walter - turned to the adaptation and conducting of operettas. Later, in Hollywood, he composed scores for the Errol Flynn epics and, in 1945, a concerto for Heifetz. Two campaigns are credited with scuttling HELIANE. The critic Julius Korngold - Hanslick's successor, scourge of Strauss and Schönberg, champion of his son's music - waged war on JONNY; he recruited the Nazis as his allies, and then they turned against both composers. But HELIANE itself was a very late fruit of ripe – overripe - erotic romanticism in the line of d'Albert, Zemlinsky and Schreker.
The music is sonically rich. Korngold has absorbed techniques of Mahler, Strauss and Puccini. He composes fluently, copiously, on tonal bases with lush harmonies of bitonality and added notes, and he scores exuberantly for a very large orchestra (with off-stage brass and bells and a heavenly choir). One may become a little impatient at times: Korngold's inspiration is uneven, and he does go on in not only the ecstatic but also the angry scenes. In the theatre, cuts might be welcome; on record we want the whole thing, and here the long opera is given complete.
Decca have done the piece proud. The recording is wide-ranging. John Mauceri conducts with conviction and with enthusiasm. Choral sopranos sail fearlessly to high C sharp. Anna Tomowa-Sintow is a delicate, touching heroine, lacking only full, easy radiance of tone for soaring climaxes. John David de Haan does well as the ardent, lyric-heroic Stranger (Jan Kiepura, soon after his celebrated Calaf, sang the role in Vienna). Hartmut Welker, the Ruler, is firm and strong but inclined to bluster: though violence is implicit in the role, he tends to overdo it, and his loving aria in Act 2 comes as relief. So does the gentler music of the Porter, warmly sung by René Pape. The small parts are taken with distinction.”
- GRAMOPHONE, April, 1993