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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 13. 1967.

Musical tragedy

page 9

Musical tragedy

It is a great pity that one of the musical tragedies of the past few decades has scarcely been mentioned in the New Zealand press—the death last September of Fritz Wunderlich. At 36 he had already established himself as the foremost of all lyric tenors and an outstanding Mozart stylist.

His recent performance of Tamino in "Die Zauberflote" has placed evidence on his superb ability in the history of recorded music. One critic discussing this said: "...his voice has the natural beauty and an ease in the topmost register which none of the other Taminos on record begin to rival . . . Wunderlich shows musical and dramatic imagination to a degree I hardly expected even after his many fine records to date."

A number of his recordings have been released in England, but so far none have been pressed in New Zealand; it will be unfortunate if this great loss is completely ignored out here.

All of this is a long-winded method of talking about the excellent performance by Leopold Simoneau. and Gottlob Prick on an Everyman Opera Series issue of El Seraglio (HMV HQM 1050-1 Stereo two records set). This is a release in a cheaper label of the recording first issue in 1857, with Sir Thomas Beecham conducting the Beecham Choral Society and the Royal Philharmonic. Simoneau's Mozart singing might not be quite up to the standard of the incomparable Wunderlieh. but it is certainly extremely good.

Last year. when reviewing the new HMV recording of Die Zauberflote, I said I was impressed with Prick's singing of Sarastro; on this much earlier recording he is even better—the part is not so demanding and he is able to relax and there aren't the occasional lapses in his lower register that exist in any recent record, Lois Marshall is a very docile but charming, Constanze.

I have heard other copies of this set which have suffered from considerable surface noise, however on my copy there is no trouble and the age of the recording is by no means apparent. Highly recommended as one of the best buys of the year.

The English critic Robert Layton recently said:

"The achievement of English music in the thirties has undergone a pretty searching revaluation in recent years and composers like Bax and Moeran are rarely heard nowadays ... the judgement of the New Musical Establishment may be as fallible as that of the old."

But all is not lost, after a long period of neglect, the recording companies have once more begun to show an interest in 20th Century composers. In 1966 Sir William Walton's 1st Symphony was recorded by both Sir Malcolm Sargent with the New Philharmonic Orchestra (HMV) and Andre Previn and the London Symphony (RCA). Neither of these have been pressed in New Zealand, but one imagines (and hopes) it shouldn't be long before they make an appearance. There are plans afoot for Previn and the London Symphony to record the complete Vaughan Williams Symphonies on the RCA label.

Barbirolli and the same orchestra have recorded English Tone Poems (HMV ASD 2305 Stereo)—the works of Ireland A London Overture; Bax Tintapel; and Delius A Village Romeo and Juliet, The Walk to Paradise Garden, Irmelin Prelude, A Song of Summer.

It is heartening to be able to listen to such good performance, so well-recorded, of the Bax and Ireland pieces, especially Barbiroli's vivid interpretation of A London Overture, Unfortunately a whole side of the disc is devoted to some rather insipid Delius—it isn't the conductor's or orchestra's fault; perhaps it is my dislike for the lesser Delius works that clouds my judgement.

Shortly after the Second World War it was rumoured that two out of every three English middle-class homes had a recording of Hoist's The Planets, often it was the only classical record they owned. I can remember about 10 years ago Jupiter or Mars was constantly on the New Zealand radio request sessions. Since then it has suffered considerably and been rather neglected. As far as I am concerned this is no real loss, however a new recording out by Sir Adrian Boult and the new Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus does manage to bring the few attractive aspects of the music to the fore. Throughout Sir Adrian avoids dramatising the recurrent cliches and the orchestral performance is superb- An excellent recording (HMV ASDM 2301 Stereo).

Sir Adrian's brilliant recording of Elgar's The Music Makers (HMV ASDM 234 Stereo) shows why he is considered the doyen of English music conductors. Janet Baker is the contralto soloist and the orchestra is the Philharmonic, with the Philharmonic Choir.

"We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams"—what beautiful music Elgar has made and the dreams conjured up by Boult are magnificent. The only word I can use to describe the performance is 'superb,' An interesting coupling is Hubert Parry's Blest Pall of Sirens. In-cidently there is an informative sleeve note by Percy Young which makes interesting reading.

Bruno-Lecnardo Oelber Is a new addition to the ranks of young virtuoso pianists: he was born in Beunos Aires, lives in Paris and made his initial impact on the concert scene last year in London. The new HMV recording of him playing the Brahm's Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, accompanied by Franz Paul Decker and the Munich Philharmonic, is an extremely successful recording (HMV HQS 1068 Stereo).

Throughout the concerto Gelber proves his complete command over the considerable technical difficulties, amazingly enough the slow movement receives a beautiful, sympathetic account: at no stage does he revert to overt brashness as is so often the case on recordings by his young compatriots. The recording is satisfactory although the string tone is a trifle harsh. Recommended.

I have already said sufficient about the Decca Phase Four Stereo Series so I think a very brief mention of a new release suffices. Puccini Spectacular (PFSM 34115) is a selection of music from La Boheme, Madame Butterfly, Turandot and Tosca. They have been arranged by Camarata as "an opera for Orchestra" (to quote the sleeve note) The stereo sound is superb. if you have not heard Phase Four yet listen to the performance of the Executioner's March and the finale from Tosca— it is enough to impress the most sceptical of record buyers.

Decca have just issued the second LP by John Mayall and the Bluesbr akers A Hard Road (SKLM 4853 Stereo only. Since the first disc the group has had a major change —namely Eric Clapton left to form "The Cream" and was replaced by Peter Green. I think the group's sound has suffered considerably, they are no longer as original as they were durlng Clapton's stay—in spite of what John Mayall says on the cover.

Don Hewitson