Carlos Kleiber conducted Der Rosenkavalier in the most famous opera houses all over the world, but nowhere as much as at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. These performances justifiably remain in the audiences' memory, as proven by this recording of a 1973 festival performance. A year after the première of this Munich production, the performances had become that of a perfect ensemble: the different vocal characteristics of the various singing personalities also inspired Kleiber to bring to light other details of the score: the blackness and the seriousness of the bass Karl Ridderbusch as Baron Ochs is made all the more intense by the almost threatening quality of the orchestra, and even more refreshing by the purposefully performed comic punchlines; the wise melancholy of the Marschallin is celebrated by Claire Watson and Carlos Kleiber with equally shadowed quality and accentuation; the vocal freshness and natural impetuosity of Lucia Popp as Sophie and Brigitte Fassbaender in the title-role match Carlos Kleiber's direction in its unrestrained vigour.
“So what is especially magical? The energy, the attention to the stage drama in the music (not least its wit), the pacing - "fast" compared with Karajan but with a wonderful rubato that allows for real pointing and emotion but owes more to Kleiber's natural instincts... than Viennese so-called tradition... Long-term Munich resident Claire Watson has done little finer on disc and is well "aged" in relationship to Fassbaender's tour de force Octavian (she makes a good youth throughout and a laugh-aloud Mariandel) and Popp's sweet but never vacant Sophie.”
“This performance from 1973 is notable for its extraordinary textural clarity, in this densest of scores, and its rhythmic vitality. The vocal hero of the occasion is Brigitte Fassbaender as Octavian, her rich and creamy voice bringing her presence vividly before us. Lucia Popp is a classic Sophie, too, pure of voice but determined of purpose.”
“It's taken over 35 years but at last we have a professional audio transfer of Kleiber leading the opera that probably meant more to him than all others. If you're not yet a convert, or a doubter, cut to the chase: go from track 18 of disc 3 (the great Trio) and you'll hear why the Munich Festival audience cannot wait to start clapping some of the most attentively sculpted Strauss conducting, traditional romance mixed with savouring of those still ear-bending harmonies, since, well, Clemens Krauss and a certain Erich Kleiber . So what is especially magical? The energy, the attention to the stage drama in the music (not least its wit), the pacing – 'fast' compared with Karajan but with a wonderful rubato that allows for real pointing and emotion but owes more to Kleiber's natural instincts (and his father's) than Viennese so-called tradition – and the slim textures. Under Kleiber the opera sounds like what its creators sought to do – follow Elektra in a different vein, not retreat from it, either musically or dramatically. In retrospect we might call this Kleiber's first favoured Rosenkavalier cast which, like the second (Lott, van Otter, Bonney – DG), was led by its ladies. Long-term Munich resident Claire Watson has done little finer on disc and is well 'aged' in relationship to Fassbaender's tour deforce Octavian (she makes a good youth throughout and a laugh-aloud Mariandel) and Popp's sweet but never vacant Sophie. But did Kleiber ever find an Ochs to match his girls? As with Ridderbusch here, he tended to trim their traditional excesses but never quite put enough in its place. The so-called 'supporting' roles are energetically taken by an evidently fired-up house ensemble.”
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