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Andrew Lamb
Gramophone, September 2009

The stars come out for this still unsurpassed Gypsy Baron from 1954

Though recorded mostly in the spring of 1954, this classic recording was not released until over four years later. Hence the delay in Naxos adding it to the other operettas recorded by EMI producer Walter Legge around the same time. In his accompanying notes, Malcolm Walker quotes at some length from the original review in the October 1958 issue of Gramophone. In it Philip Hope-Wallace writes enthusiastically, declaring that “at all testing points Schwarzkopf simply outsings [her rivals]”, and referring especially to “that delightful comic artist Erich Kunz”. His one major cavil seems to have been over Nicolai Gedda’s Barinkay—“perhaps a little over-elegant…an almost effete aristocrat”. Well, maybe so. But what glorious tenor tone one gets from the young Gedda!

It’s a tribute to Hope-Wallace’s perception that his judgment has stood the test of time so well. What might not be expected is that his overall comment that “this is the best of the complete Gypsy Barons to date; better recording, better singing, and better…ensemble” is virtually as true today. Sure, there have been recordings with more modern sound. However, Der Zigeunerbaron has not been over-favoured by the recording companies, and certainly no successor has matched this version as an aural experience. There are downward transitions of the comic baritone roles to accord with Viennese tradition, and the recording is by no means strictly complete. Yet none of that matters much in the light of the glories of the performance…I detect nothing at all inferior in Mark Obert-Thorn’s digital restoration for Naxos, who offer not just a lower price but some enjoyable fillers. Besides Elisabeth Rethberg’s 1930 Gypsy Song and the 1928 Tauber recordings of the Act 1 and Act 2 Finales, there’s Leo Blech’s 1929 version of the Schatz-Walzer. This is one of six dances Strauss arranged from the operetta, and it includes the melody of the “Decency Commission Couplets” omitted from the Ackermann recording.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2009

Though Der Zigeunerbaron has never achieved anything like the success that Johann Strauss enjoyed with Die Fledermaus, it has enjoyed a number of outstanding recordings, this from 1954 undoubtedly the finest. It starred Elisabeth Schwarzkopf who was surrounded by a very young team that included Nicolai Gedda, Erika Koth and Hermann Prey, all in the safe hands of the much experienced conductor, Otto Ackermann. The operetta’s lack of success outside of German speaking countries, is largely due to its highly complicated and unbelievable plot. That is explained in long stretches of spoken dialogue that only prove a punctuating burden on highly attractive music. Dress it up with this superb cast that, in addition to the lead singers, has Erich Kunz, the great comic artist, and the fruity quality of the English contralto, Monica Sinclair, and you have a desirable performance. Of course most will buy the discs for Schwarzkopf’s portrayal of the gypsy heroine, Saffi, and she will not disappoint, while Koth’s brilliant coloratura is a joy to the ear. It is recorded with the cuts that were oft used at the time, but have thankfully been restored in more recent releases. The transfer of the original Columbia discs is superb and gives them new life. Filling empty space Naxos has included four tacks of historic performances, including a Lotte Lehmann and Richard Tauber recording from 1928 that was something very special, while the Treasure Waltz in the hands of Leo Blech and the Berlin State Opera Orchestra has more vivacity than we hear today.






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7:58:25 PM, 11 July 2014
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