Händel: Judas Maccabaeus HWV 63 (in German)
Version and translation by Friedrich Chrysander (1826-1901). Abridged by R. Kubelik. BR recording. Rec. at Herkulessaal, Munich, 1963-10-25.
- Cast: Fritz Wunderlich (Judas Maccabaeus), Agnes Giebel (Israelitish Woman), Naan Pöld (Israelitish Man), Ludwig Welter (Simon/Enpolemus), Julia Falk (Messenger), BR Choir, RSO Munich, cond. Rafael Kubelik
- Walter Panofsky in "Süddeutsche Zeitung", 1963-10-28: "[Wunderlich] was the only one to hit Händel's style perfectly, to sing and not celebrate, to make - in the spirit of Händel's days - real bravuras of the complex arias."
- Jens Malte Fischer in the Orfeo CD booklet, 1999: "... Apart from the old-fashioned (to our way of thinking) German translation, most astonishing is the drastic cuts that Chrysander made. A complete recording of Judas Maccabaeus according to the standard Halle Handel Edition meanwhile to be heard, which has appeared since the '50s of our century, offers almost double the amount of music of Kubelik's recording based on Chrysander's edition. That may be somewhat disturbing for our striving for the 'original version' and for completeness, but precisely in comparison with the Chrysander version the uninhibited listener to the original will have to attest to considerable longeurs - 'dangerous longeurs', to quote the Dancing Master in Strauss's 'Ariadne auf Naxos'. In contrast, Chrysander concentrated on the most worthwile parts of the score and also secured for the work a compelling dramatic structure and a logicality that it does not possess when performed in all its completeness.
Raphael Kubelik still further reinforces this impression. With the chorus and symphony orchestra of the Bavarian Radio in the full instrumentation that was common earlier, he is less concerned with questions of historical performance practice, but gives way to the inspiring impetus of his music-making temperament, which reveals itself, always convincingly, in a repertoire of astonishing breadth. Judas Maccabaeus flows like a concentrated one-acter full of dramatic energy, without thereby having to suffer the impression of the greatest possible uniformity in style and expression.
Beyond this, the recording [...] has a trump card to play: Fritz Wunderlich, who sings Judas. Wunderlich had already sung this role for the first time in 1956, in a concert by an Augsburg chorus. As a local critic observed, in view of his then already noteworthy performance it was not held against him 'that once, in one number, he began to call too early for his sword'. That his interpretations were unforgettable in Bach's Passions and in several Handel operas and oratorios now becomes clear through reissues like the present. With all respect for the other participants, he ist the outstanding interpreter in this performance.
If John Beard, at the time, sang even only approximately with such lustrous chivalry, such radiant youthfulness as Fritz Wunderlich, Handel must have been completely happy. We do not know that, but we stand in wonder before the ever newly astonishing tenor miracle of this singer, who with his impregnable tonal energy brings to life the historical Judas Maccabaeus's confidence in victory and thereby - and that is perhaps his greatest achievment - lets us think not of military successes and troop movements but of legitimate emphasis on the matter of a higher justice. Recollection of the Duke of Cumberland [a 'role model' for Handel's Judas; A.P.] has long faded away; recollection of the fire of enthusiasm that Fritz Wunderlich was able to arouse remains blazingly alive to us in such recordings." [translated by Lionel Salter]
- John B. Steane in Gramophone, May 2000:
"Achtung! This is the German Judas Maccabaeus, with no more of Handel than was permitted by its 19th-century editor and translator, Friedrich Chrysander. Reduced by little under a half, the oratorio is said in the notes to have acquired 'a compelling dramatic structure and a logicality that it does not possess when performed in all its completeness'. The omissions include the soprano aria 'From mighty kings', the whole episode of the Israelite woman with 'Come, ever-smiling liberty', the bass aria 'With pious hearts', 'Father of Heaven' from Act 3, and the recitative and aria 'With Honour let Desert be crown'd'.
The last excision is particularly regrettable in that it is sung by Judas himself,
in other words by Fritz Wunderlich, in whom much of the recording's interest lies. This is not all. Gone is his recitative and aria ('No, no unhallow'd desire') at the end of Act 1, and for those - perhaps all of us - by whom his singing of 'Sound an alarm' was eagerly awaited, it will afford mixed satisfaction to find that the number is indeed represented but allowed to run for no more than a minute before the chorus enters. The good news is that what remains after the cuts is magnificently sung, with fluent runs and a quality of voice not to be found among the tenors of the later complete recordings. He also sings with feeling and taste, though listeners who remember the satirical edge Heddle Nash gave to 'How vain is man' (Dutton) will find nothing corresponding to that.
Agnes Giebel is a sympathetic Israelite, Ludwig Welter a Germanic Simon, Juliana Falk a Messenger who tells of triumph and disaster with the unruffled impartiality of a well-trained newsreader. The chorus is spirited but rather backward in recorded balance. The other interest, of course, is the conducting of Rafael Kubelik. If this is no period performance in the modern sense, neither is it 'period' in the sense of belonging to that inglorious past of slow speeds, stodgy dynamics and heavyweight bass (choral and orchestral). His allargando markings at the end of the longer numbers are more spacious than today's practice allows, but that does not necessarily condemn them. One simply wishes he had had a better edition to work with." [on Orfeo d'Or C475 992 I]
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|Orfeo d'Or C475 992 I (2 CD)
|Melodram MEL 28026 (2 CD)
Fritz Wunderlich Discography