Hillebrecht/Fehenberger/Metternich/Bavarian State Opera/Keilberth (Walhall)
Joseph Keilberth (1908-1968) was one of the great Strauss conductors. He made few commercial recordings of the composer's work, however, and we owe much of our understanding of his achievements to releases of radio archive material, of which this 1960 Munich performance of Friedenstag is the latest. The work itself is no masterpiece. Premiered in 1938, it deals with the reconciliation between feuding German states at the end of the 30 years' war, and has an atypical monumental quality that some have considered suspect: opinions still differ as to whether or not it was written to pacify the Nazis, who had forced Strauss from public office two years previously. Blending drive with lyricism, Keilberth does some fine things with it, though the cast try your patience. Josef Metternich was past his best in 1960, and isn't always convincing as the fanatical Commandant. As his wife Maria, Hildegard Hillebrecht produces top notes that put your teeth on edge, and there are cuts in the score every time veteran tenor Lorenz Fehenberger (the Burgomaster) has anything remotely difficult to do. For Keilberth completists only.
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