Friday, February 8, 2013

Sunday Classics chronicles: Remembering Eugen Jochum (3) -- Overtures Plus, part 1

Act III of Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz
Huntsmen's Chorus
What pleasure on earth can compare with the hunter's?
Whose cup of life sparkles so richly?
To lie in the verdure while the horns sound,
To follow the stag through thicket and pond,
Is joy for a prince, is a real man's desire,
Is strengthens your limbs and spices your food.
When woods and rocks resound all about us,
A full goblet sings a freer and happier song!
Yo ho! Tralala!

Diana is present to brighten the night;
Her darkness cools us like any refreshment in the day.
To fell the bloody wolf, and the boar
who greedily roots through the green crops,
Is joy for a prince, is real man's desire,
It strengthens your limbs and spices your food.
When woods and rocks resound all about us,
A full goblet sings a freer and happier song!
Yo, ho! Tralala!

Bavarian Radio Chorus and Symphony Orchestra, Eugen Jochum, cond. DG, recorded December 1959

by Ken

Do I need an excuse for bringing back the "Huntsmen's Chorus" from Act III of Der Freischütz? I love it. It's another of this musical bits I can listen to over and over and over. (This isn't theoretical. I've done it a bunch of times, usually along with the preceding Entr'acte, which works the same material in purely orchestral form.)

Looking back, I rather admire the audacity with which I first slipped these goodies into Part 5 of the "Remembering Margaret Price" series, on the pretext that we were hearing Dame Margaret sing Agathe's grand Act II aria "Leise, leise" as well as the following trio and Agathe's Act III cavatina. We also heard the performance of the Freischütz Overture we're about to rehear, along with a bunch of other performances of it. It is, of course, a glorious piece, from its brooding and fraught beginnings to its giddily triumphant conclusion, anticipating the joyful concluding section of Agathe's "Leise, leise."

WEBER: Der Freischütz:

Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Eugen Jochum, cond. DG, recorded December 1959

For those just coming in at the point, we're continuing a mostly archival (from the Sunday Classics archives, that is) remembrance of that wonderful conductor Eugen Jochum (1902-1987). Last week we focused on his concert work, specifically on two very different composers for whom he had a remarkable affinity, Haydn and Bruckner. This week we're moving on to his operatic work.


It's probably heard more often in the concert hall than in the opera house. I don't know that Jochum would have conducted it any differently as a concert piece, but I do think it makes a difference atmosphere-wise that he was thinking of it here in its context as a curtain-raiser for the opera. The performance seems to me to work fine either way.


We first heard the even more glorious Oberon Overure, which I described as "spirit-cleansing" in a July 2009 post on "comfort music," from which I see the video clips have now disappeared. We heard the Oberon Overture again, though, via the wonderful Leinsdorf-Philharmonia performance I lived with so happily for so long in the Capitol Paperback Classics LP reissue -- in the preview to the June 2011 post "Catching up on our overtures"). I don't have a Jochum performance of Oberon, but I'm quite happy to hear the Leinsdorf again. This happily fits our "Sunday Classics archives" theme.

WEBER: Oberon:

Philharmonia Orchestra, Erich Leinsdorf, cond. Capitol-EMI, recorded c1958


Beethoven's Fidelio Overture has also led a dual existence, split between concert and theater life. I'm speaking of course of the overture the composer finally concocted for his only opera after deciding he'd been on the wrong track in the overtures we know as Leonore Nos. 1, 2, and 3. (We've heard Leonore No. 3 a lot, it seems to me, including the Leinsdorf performance from that same Capitol LP.)

Jochum made a bunch of recordings of the Fidelio Overture as a concert piece, including this one done as part of his first recorded traversal of the Beethoven symphonies (1952-61, and thus part mono and part stereo) and my recollection is that they all took this lickety-split approach to the quick sections of the piece. (Note that he was already 57 when he made this recording, but would yet record two more complete Beethoven symphony cycles, with the Concertgebouw Orchestra for Philips and with the London Symphony for EMI -- both of which included the Fidelio Overture, as it happens.)

BEETHOVEN: Fidelio, Op. 72:

Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Eugen Jochum, cond. DG, recorded Apr. 27, 1959

The only Jochum recording of Fidelio I've come across is a 1957 Rome Radio concert performance, from which in May 2012 we heard the grim orchestral introduction to Act II which introduces the imprisoned Don Florestan's near-death monologue (which was the principal subject of that post, though we heard just the opening of this performance, possibly as much as we need to hear of Hans Hopf's Florestan).

BEETHOVEN: Fidelio, Op. 72: Act II, Orchestral introduction and opening of Florestan's monologue
God! What darkness here!
O dreadful silence!

Hans Hopf (t), Florestan; RAI (Rome) Symphony Orchestra, Eugen Jochum, cond. Broadcast performance, Dec. 22, 1957

Now let's go back and hear the Overture and opening number from the 1957 Rome Fidelio. You'll notice that the Overture isn't quite as fiercely driven here, though this may have been an accommodation to an orchestra not used to playing the piece. When the curtain rises, we hear our old friend Murray Dickie, the fine Scottish supporting tenor -- whom we've heard as Pedrillo in Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio (May 2010), as the Shepherd in Act III of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde (March 2010), and singing the dramatic opening of "The Drinking Song of the Sorrow of the Earth" (August 2010), the opening song of Mahler's song-symphony The Song of the Earth -- as the young assistant jailer Jaquino.

BEETHOVEN: Fidelio, Op. 72:
Overture and No. 1, Duet, Jaquino-Marzelline

The Courtyard in the State Prison. In the background are the main gate and a high wall. Within the closed gate itself is a small doorway which can be opened to individuals on foot. By the door is the gate-keeper's cubicle; to the left are the prisoners' cells with windows barred. At the very front is the door of the warder's quarters, and on the right is the gate into the castle garden.

MARZELLINE is ironing clothes outside her door. JAQUINO is standing near his cubicle; he opens the door to several people who hand him packages, which he puts in his cubicle.

JAQUINO [fondly, rubbing his hands together]:
Now, darling, now we are alone.
This is the moment for a private talk.
MARZELLINE [continues working]:
I'm sure it won't be anything important.
I mustn't waste time when I'm working.
JAQUINO: A quick word, you sulky thing, you.
MARZELLINE: Say it then. I'm listening.
JAQUINO: Unless you can give me kinder looks
I shan't be able to say a single word.
MARZELLINE: Unless you can get along with me
I shall close my ears completely
JAQUINO: Just listen to me for a moment.
Then I shall leave you in peace again.
MARZELLINE: I shall never have any peace.
Speak then, just speak.
JAQUINO: I have chosen you as my wife.
Do you understand?
MARZELLINE: That is quite clear.
JAQUINO: And if you were to say yes to me,
what do you think?
MARZELLINE: Then we'll make a couple.
JAQUINO: In a few weeks we could . . .
MARZELLINE: Very well, you're already setting the day.
[There is knocking.]
JAQUINO: Hang this eternal knocking!
MARZELLINE: (I'm saved at last!)
JAQUINO: (I was just nicely into my stride then,
but my quarry always eludes me.)
MARZELLINE: (How his love worries me!
How the hours become long for me!)
[JAQUINO opens the door, takes in a package, and puts it in his cubicle.]
MARZELLINE: I know the poor boy is torturing himself.
I am so sorry about him as well.
I have chosen Fidelio.
Loving him is a wonderful prize.
JAQUINO [coming back]: (Where was I?
She won't look at me.)
MARZELLINE: (There he is -- he's starting again!) . . .

[rest of the text to come]

Murray Dickie, (t), Jaquino; Elisabeth Lindermeier (s), Marzelline; RAI (Rome) Symphony Orchestra, Eugen Jochum, cond. Broadcast performance, Dec. 12, 1957


More of the operatic Jochum.

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