OP0211. FIDELIO, Live Performance, 12 Oct., 1953, w.Furtwängler Cond. Vienna Staatsoper Ensemble; Martha Mödl, Wolfgang Windgassen, Otto Edelmann, Alfred Poell, Gottlob Frick, Sena Jurinac, Rudolf Schock, etc. (Netherlands) 2-Virtuoso 2697272. Very long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 02772697272522
"Like the Toscanini concert version, Furtwängler's interpretation is very different in style from Toscanini's driven account, being much weightier and more considered, bringing out individual instrumental voices. His conception places the emphasis upon the vertical dimension, bringing out what Berlioz called the ‘chastity’ of the score and stressing Leonore's fervent heroism, whereas Toscanini concentrates on linear drama.
The cast, although not the best ever, is as fine as could be assembled in 1953 and this studio recording was made immediately after the run of live Vienna performances. While that ensures that the performance does not sound studio-bound it would also account for the fact that Mödl sometimes sounds rather tired and strained, finding difficulty in centring and sustaining her tone and negotiating a good few moments of hoarseness. The incredibly demanding ‘O namenlose Freude!’ is highly dramatic and she hits a whopping, nervy top B in ‘Abscheulicher’. J urinac's Marzelline is rather staid and matronly but beautifully sung. Her Jaquino is robustly sung by Rudolf Schock who sounds as if he could make a stab at Florestan. Frick gives us his near ideal Rocco: a warm, simple old soul with the blackest of basses.
Furtwängler's handling of the introduction to Act 2 is massive and portentous, the orchestra playing with wonderfully full, burnished tone. Windgassen was never quite the echt Heldentenor in my judgement but here he is young and sappier of voice than in later years and gives us a very sympathetic, smooth-voiced Florestan, less heroic than is ideal but indubitably up to the music. He successfully suggests a man who is both mentally and physically exhausted without sounding vocally weak. His conductor is considerate to him and his monologue becomes almost a melancholy meditation at a pace considerably slower than is customary.”
- Ralph Moore