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RARE RYSANEK IN MOZART
on 11 May 2006
At the time of issue (May 2006) this is the only recorded example of Leonie Rysanek in a Mozart role, and herein lies the value and fascination of this set.
Characterisation was always Rysanek's forte, and her Elvira is no exception. When she's angry, she's very angry, and when she's distraught she communicates depair with equal force. This is a big-voiced, generously sung performance, even though one is aware of a degree of caution (unusual in any Rysanek performance) in negotiating the notes, which she does very creditably. As you'd expect, the top of the voice is glorious and secure; the pay-off is that some low notes are virtually inaudible and runs aren't particularly well articulated. Nonetheless an artistocratic, individual and moving Elvira. The most serious drawback is that "Mi tradi" was not performed. To quote the liner note "...because Rosbaud did not want Rysanek to sing it for unknown reasons"! I'm sure that if he'd asked her, she'd have come up with some very convincing reasons for restoring it!
One more thing: in this recording, you always know when Rysanek enters or exits, as she appears to be the only member of the cast wearing boots! One must now hope that Walhall can unearth Rysanek's other Mozart roles. The only time Rysanek sang the Countess was at this same Aix Festival of 1952, and in 1956 she sang Donna Anna and Elettra. She herself said she wasn't right for most of these roles, but she thought Elettra was acceptable. Let's hear these performances and make up our own minds!
Most of the other singers' performances are known from other recordings. Rehfuss and Cortis offer characterful, well-sung, but not particularly charismatic portrayals of Giovanni and Leporello and Carla Martinis, after a bumpy start, is a powerful vengeful Anna, brilliant and accurate. Like Rysanek, she the sort of bigger-voiced singer who would often be invited to sing Mozart until the 1950s when, broadly speaking, less dramatic and more accurate singing was demanded. Husband and wife Leopold Simoneau and Pietette Alarie are excellent in every way as Ottavio and Zerlina, roles for which they were justifiably famous. The have Mozartian style at their fingertips and would be completely at home in today's Mozart performances.
Rosbaud's conducting is always interesting. The opening chords of the overture are delivered with an amazing power that projects us instantly into the dark,shadowy world of Don Giovanni. If this impetus is dissipated as the performance progresses, that's because the conductor lets the music flow without interference, so that what we hear is Mozart, not Rosbaud.
The sound isn't bad for a 1952 broadcast. Slightly congested, with harsh moments, by and large the voices come through well enough. The piano continuo is sometimes inaudible and the microphones pick up odd details from the orchestra from time to time, though these can be quite revealing of Mozart's genius and how he achieved his effects!
Incidentally, full marks to Wallhall, who are honest enough to mention two short breaks in the recording, during "Non ti fidar, o misera" and in Leproello's "Lo deggio ad ogni patto". But don't let this put you off a fascinating rarity from Leonie Rysanek, one of the greatest artists of the last century.