On 11th June 1944, Karl Böhm conducted ‘Ariadne auf Naxos’ at the Vienna State Opera. It was, in his own words, ‘despite the dark shadows cast by the war which was already long since lost, a feast for musical Vienna’. The occasion was the 80th birthday of Richard Strauss which would have undoubtedly been celebrated throughout the whole world of music had it not fallen at that sombre time; a few months later the closing of all German and Austrian theatres was one of the many signs of the inexorable approach of destruction and defeat. For Strauss, however, the celebration performance in Vienna signified one of the triumphal high spots of a lifetime rich in successes and fame.
Böhm said of ‘Ariadne’ that, together with ‘Elektra’, it had always been his favourite among Strauss’ stage works and that with it he attained his first great public and critical success.
He recorded the work twice for Deutsche Grammophon – a ‘live’ recording in 1954 and this much rarer and much sought-after studio recording made in 1969 with a superb cast that included Hildegard Hillebrecht, Reri Grist, Jess Thomas, Tatiana Troyanos and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau which now receives its first international release on CD.
Collectors will be interested to learn that the set includes the notes that accompanied the original LP release, a synopsis and details of all the musicians who participated in the recording (including three members of the Koeckert Quartet).
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60
Primadonna/Ariadne: Hildegard Hillebrecht
Der Komponist (the composer): Tatiana Troyanos
Zerbinetta: Reri Grist
Der Tenor/Bacchus: Jess Thomas
Ein Musiklehrer (a music master): Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Der Haushofmeister (the major-domo): Franz Stoss
Ein Offizier (an officer): Friedrich Lenz
Ein Tanzmeister (a dancing master): Gerhard Unger
Ein Perückenmacher (a wig-maker): Heinz Friedrich
Ein Lakai (a footman): Herbert Lackner
Harlekin (Harlequin): Barry McDaniel
Scaramuccio (Scaramouche): John van Kesteren
Truffaldin (Truffaldino): Richard Kogel
Brighella: Friedrich Lenz
Najade (Naiad): Arleen Augér
Dryade (Dryad): Unni Rugtvedt
Echo: Sigrid Schmidt
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks
FIRST INTERNATIONAL RELEASE ON CD
Executive Producer: Dr. Hans Hirsch
Recording Producer: Wolfgang Lohse
Balance Engineer: Günter Hermanns
Tape Editing: Joachim Niss
Recording Location: Residenz, Herkulessaal, Munich, Germany, 20–28 September 1969
‘The DGG sound is as clear as crystal … Hildegard Hillebrecht […] pours forth powerful, heroic tone … Jess Thomas is a robust Bacchus … Reri Grist … is my ideal Zerbinetta, precise of rhythm and intonation, witty in phrasing and verbal inflexion, tough in attack yet delectably sensual in vocal quality, the whore of one’s dreams, sweet and permissive and utterly natural, never calculating’ Gramophone