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Recordings

Der Rosenkavalier highlights on Classics for Pleasure
20 Jul 2008

Der Rosenkavalier highlights on Classics for Pleasure

For the opera of average length, a decent highlights disc can feature as much as half the score.

Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier (highlights)

Te Kanawa, Hendricks, von Otter, Rydl, Powell, Grundheber, Dresden State Opera Chorus, Staatskapelle Dresden, Bernard Haitink

Classics for Pleasure (EMI) 393 3722 [CD]

£3.97  Click to buy

But for Strauss and Hofmannstahl's classic Der Rosenkavalier, even a very full disc, like this one from Classic for Pleasure, can only contain about a third of the music. Nonetheless, CfP has done an admirable job of selecting scenes and sections that not only contain the most beloved music, but which also give a good sense of the story's rollicking comedy and nostalgic, sentimental core. The 22 tracks take the listener right from the erotic trumpeting of the introduction through to the ecstatic climax and ironic twinkle of the last notes.

The recording comes from 1991, with Bernard Haitink leading the Dresden forces and a cast of Kiri te Kanawa as the Marschallin, Anne Sofie von Otter as Octavian, Barbara Hendricks as Sophie, and Kurt Rydl as Baron Ochs. Richard Leech, still in good voice, has the tenor cameo role of the Italian Singer. They all give fine performances, but that last tinge of charisma and sharp characterization is naggingly absent. Kanawa in particular presents a much more detailed, moving performance on the Covent Garden DVD with Solti conducting. Hendricks would seem to be ideal casting for Sophie, but somehow hers and von Otter's voices do not blend ideally. Similarly, the final trio lacks the blossoming beauty of the best renditions.

Still, there's much to be said for the professionalism of the set, and for those who doubt they would ever have much time to listen to a complete recording, this one would be a very suitable alternative. A detailed plot summary is tied to the track listing.

Chris Mullins

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