OP2578. WOZZECK (in English), Live Performance, 14 March, 1959, w.Böhm Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Hermann Uhde, Eleanor Steber, Kurt Baum, Karl Dönch, Paul Franke, Ezio Flagello, etc., replete with Milton Cross' introductory remarks; WOZZECK – Acts II & III (in English), Live Performance, 8 April, 1961, w.Böhm Cond. Hermann Uhde, Eleanor Steber, Kurt Baum, Ralph Herbert, Paul Franke, Ezio Flagello, etc. (E.U.) 2-Walhall 0364. - 4035122653649
“Top honors of the afternoon belong to Hermann Uhde….More than any other member of the cast, he adds a touch of legato to the music, his slight caress upon Wozzeck’s tortured phrases subtly suggesting the man’s greater humanity and thus serving to separate him from his bizarre company….He has completely absorbed Berg’s angular vocal idiom so that his reading has a naturalness….Wozzeck wanders into the pond, trying to wash away the blood, and the artist rises to tragic heights….Steber suggests both the earthy commonness of Wozzeck’s mistress and Marie’s craving for some small measure of warmth and beauty….most of the time she is not only affecting but vocally assured….Notwithstanding the superior efforts on stage, it is the orchestra which best captures the grotesquerie of Berg’s brilliant score. Böhm converts the logical formalism of Berg’s diverse scenes into graphic organisms….the final interlude provides the afternoon’s emotional climax.”
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, pp.270-72
"Rudolf Bing increased the artistic stature of the Metropolitan Opera by presenting Alban Berg's WOZZECK last night. Regarded now as a 'classic' in Europe, this 34-year old contemporary opera is unique, whatever the public response to it. Since the box office proved 'disastrous' as far as benefiting the Metropolitan Opera Guild's production fund, the success of the first performance must be treated as solely artistic. For that Bing deserves hearty congratulations. He has fulfilled an important obligation to the public and one of his own ambitions in bringing WOZZECK finally to the Met. Mixed with the cheers at the final curtain there were a very audible number of boo's. The latter provided their own commentary on those who uttered them because they indicated a woeful lack of awareness of the contemporary musical world of which WOZZECK is a significant part. They also overlooked a splendid production, one of the most exacting ever undertaken in the Met's entire history… Karl Böhm won the ovations of the evening, deservedly. Conducting this score must be considered a major triumph at any time. The work it involved stretched back to the [beginning] of the opera season 19 weeks and 24 orchestral rehearsals later (unprecedented in the history of the Met), he achieved a remarkable performance. It may not have registered all the nervous tension and frightening aspect of the early portion of the opera, but it revealed unforgettable texture of sound in the last act."
- Miles Kastendieck, New York Journal-American, 6 March, 1959
“On the opera stage the connection of intellect and passion is seldom. This is why stage singers like Hermann Uhde deserve the greatest appreciation; they uplift the opera to the highest level of musical drama.”
- Audrey Williamson, OPERA, Dec., 1961
“Hermann Uhde’s American mother was a student of the famous baritone Karl Scheidemantel. He was trained as a bass, by Philipp Kraus at the Opera School in Bremen, where he made his début as Titurel (1936). After engagements in Freiburg and Munich he appeared for the first time in baritone rôles at the Deutsches Theater im Haag in 1942. A prisoner-of-war from April 1945 to February 1946, he did not return to the stage until 1947. He subsequently appeared at the opera houses of Hamburg, Vienna and Munich where he became a member of the ensemble. He gained great success in rôles such as Mandryka, Gunther and Telramund, in which he was particularly admired. The artist was regularly invited to the Bayreuth Festival from 1951 to 1960 where he became one of its most important members, appearing as Holländer, Klingsor, Gunther, Donner, Wotan in RHEINGOLD, Telramund and Melot. He was also a guest at the Salzburg Festival and performed a superb Wozzeck at the Met (sung in English!) where he regularly appeared from 1955 to 1961 and again in 1964. He sang at the Grand Opéra Paris as well as at other European opera houses. He created several rôles, including Creon in Orff’s ANTIGONAE, the baritone rôles in Britten’s THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA and Wagner-Régeny’s DAS BERGWERK ZU FALUN. He died of a heart attack during a performance of Niels Viggo Bentzon’s FAUST III, at Copenhagen in 1965.”
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile
“A dramatic tenor alternately gauche and exciting, Kurt Baum filled a crucial spot for the Metropolitan Opera and other houses without ever quite having attained star status. Long after his nominal retirement from the stage, he continued to make concert appearances. Noted throughout his career for stentorian top notes, he later wrote several treatises on preservation of the voice and singing well in old age. Whatever his deficiencies as an artist, he was an exemplar of longevity. Baum spent his high school and college years in Cologne, Germany, before entering medical school at Prague University in 1927. During this period, Baum engaged in a number of athletic activities, becoming the amateur boxing champion of Czechoslovakia. He also evinced a strong interest in music. Urged by friends to sing professionally, Baum left medical school and enrolled at Berlin's Music Academy in 1930. By 1933, Baum was sufficiently well prepared to win the Vienna International Singing Competition, taking first prize among 700 contestants. Heard by the Intendant of the Zurich Opera, Baum was engaged for that company and made his début there in 1933 singing in Alexander von Zemlinsky's DER KREIDEKREIS. After singing a variety of lyric roles at Zürich, Baum was engaged the following year by the Deutsches Theater for a succession of more dramatic roles. Feeling the need for further study, Baum traveled to Italy to work with Eduardo Garbin in Milan and with faculty at Rome's Accademia Santa Cecilia. Fortified with additional technical expertise, Baum sang in many of Europe's leading houses in Paris, Vienna, Budapest, Monte Carlo, and at Salzburg. Heard in Monte Carlo by the director of the Chicago Opera, Baum was engaged and made his American début in Chicago on 2 November, 1939, singing Radames to the Aïda of Rose Bampton. He was heard in subsequent seasons as Don José and Manrico. Meanwhile, Baum joined the Metropolitan Opera, making his début on 27 November, 1941, as the Italian Singer in DER ROSENKAVALIER. In this short but memorable part, his talents were well matched to the role's requirements. For the next quarter century, Baum sang the spinto repertory at the Metropolitan to reviews both complimentary and critical. When the company mounted WOZZECK for the first time in 1959, Baum found a highly congenial role in the preening Drum Major. After WWII, Baum returned to Europe and made his début at La Scala as Manrico and re-established relations with several other major companies.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
“Karl Böhm was one of the greatest conductors of the twentieth century in the German tradition. He studied music as a child and continued to work and study in music while serving in the Austrian Army during World War I - and while completing a doctorate in law. He never had conducting lessons, but made close studies of the work of both Bruno Walter and Karl Muck.
In 1921 he was hired by the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, and then he became Generalmusikdirektor in both Darmstadt (1927) and Hamburg (1931-1933). He gained a reputation for his fine performances of Mozart, Wagner and Richard Strauss, as well as his championing of modern German music, including operas by Krenek and Berg. Böhm debuted in Vienna in 1933, leading Wagner's TRISTAN UND ISOLDE. In 1934 he became director of the Dresden State Opera, Richard Strauss' favorite theater. There, Böhm conducted premieres of Strauss' DIE SCHWEIGSAME FRAU (1935) and DAFNE (1938). He remained at the helm in Dresden through 1943, at which point he became director of the Vienna State Opera (1943-1945). Richard Strauss was not in official favor, and Joseph Goebbels banned any recognition of the great composer's 80th birthday in 1944. However, Böhm participated in a de facto observance, as a large number of Strauss' orchestral and operatic works ‘just happened’ to be played about the time of the birthday.
After the war, Böhm was forbidden to perform until he underwent ‘de-Nazification’, a procedure whereby prominent Austro-Germans were investigated for complicity in Nazi crimes. He was eventually cleared of any suspicion, and was permitted to resume work in 1947.
Böhm oversaw the German repertory at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires (1950-1953), and again served as director of the Vienna State Opera (1954-1956). He debuted in the USA at the Metropolitan Opera with Mozart's DON GIOVANNI in 1957, and took prominent German orchestras and opera companies on tour. The Vienna Philharmonic bestowed on him the title ‘Ehrendirigent’, and he was proclaimed Generalmusikdirector of Austria. He left a legacy of many great recordings, including a complete Wagner RING cycle considered by many critics to be the best. While his Wagner and Strauss were sumptuously Romantic, his Mozart was scrupulously Classical in approach.”
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com
“The Austrian composer Alban Berg is usually mentioned in the same breath as his two like-minded contemporaries, Arnold Schönberg and Anton Webern, with whom he formed the Second Viennese School of composition and explored the potential of Serialist techniques for expanding music’s perspectives in the wake of Wagner and Mahler.
Berg is generally considered to have developed a more human, emotional style than the stricter Serialists, and his works often have a more lyrical feel.”
- David Smith, Presto Classical