3 OCTOBER 1947, Page 13


Fidelio was one of the best of the Vienna State Opera's Covent Garden performances. It is of great importance that the singers in Fidelio should also be able to act, or the pathos and the naïve

• emotion may easily degenerate into bathos and sentimentality ; and the Vienna company is remarkably strong on the dramatic side. flilde Konetzni was a disappointment as Leonora, her voice having neither the emotional power nor, surprisingly, the range for the part: but her acting was good, especially in the dungeon scene. Ludwig Weber has one of the finest voices in the company—full, effortless, expressive and firm: and his Rocco kept the perfect balance Letween doddering paternity and heroic resistance. He was a kindly, worried old man. neither a dotard nor a hero. Elizabeth Schwarzkoprs voice and appearance made her an admirable Marcellina, an ordinary girl, her father's daughter, but with a beautiful lyrical quality such as youth and love can in fact bestow on the most ordinary beings. Paul Schoeffler had not quite the stridency or violence of Don Pizarro, I felt, though he looked the romantic villain to perfection. After all, Florestan is a bit of a wet, as well as a prig ; and Pizarro has to supply among the men a match for Leonora's indefatigable heroism. Florestan is on the verge of starving to death, I admit, and on that score not much can be expected of him: but Beethoven gives him a powerful enough scene in Act 2, scene r, and it is not exactly energy that is lacking but rather humanity.

The Prisoners were a little over-produced, I felt, and this detracted from the effect of their famous chorus. (I can never help wondering what proportion of them were imprisoned for petty embezzlement, highway robbery or poisoning their wives. After all, Florestan was perhaps a Spanish Dostoievsky, and not all Dostoievsky's companions in the House of the Dead were Decembrists.) I do not find the playing of the Leonora No. 3 before the last act at all successful dramatically. No one, I should have thought, wants a recapitulation in purely musical terms of what has just been happening on the stage. All the audience want is the final 7ubel and the satisfactory disgracing of Pizarro, which is exactly what Beethoven gives them.

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The chamber music concerts at the Central Hall seem to show how much of that particular form of ensemble playing depends on perfect teamwork and how little on the last refinements of individual excellence. Violin sonatas (I heard the two Brahms sonatas played by Szigeti and Schnabel) are a different matter, but even in them there must be parity between the two performers. Schnabel is a great Beethoven-player and an extremely forceful musical intelli- gence: but to impose his personality on an ensemble is not the pianist's function. Schnabel's personality makes him constitutionally unable to play Schubert—whose music is neither forceful nor intellectual. Beauty of tone and rhythmic ease, humour and amiability are essential in the Trout quintet, for example: but, for all the musical qualities of the performers, there was no delight in their playing to me. It seemed constrained and nervous, lacking in spontaneity. Brahms is obviously a more kindred nature to Schnabel than Schubert, and the F minor quintet was magnificent —though there again the slow movement was lacking in grace and charm, scholarly rather than musical. The counterweight to Schnabel's personality ought to come from the violinist, but Szigeti seems oddly unable to assert himself. MARTIN COOPER.