Otto Ackermann

Ferruccio Busoni: Turandot (A Chinese Fable)

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Urania's Busoni: Turandot sources a fairly well-traveled recording of Busoni's seldom performed, thoroughly neo-classical mini-opera made in Bern, Switzerland, on May 26, 1959. Originally issued in the late '60s on an MR LP paired with Dallapiccola's opera Il prigioniero, this was the only recording of Turandot available until Kent Nagano recorded it in 1991 for Virgin Classics, mere months ahead of its second recording, for Capriccio and led by Gerd Albrecht. Turandot is a fast-moving, appealing, grand, tuneful, and sufficiently dramatic work. Perhaps the only reason why it isn't done more often is owing to competition from that "other," same-named work, the canonical last opera of Giacomo Puccini, not written until seven years after the Busoni work was premiered. From the standpoint of 1959, it would be hard to imagine a better conductor for this work than Otto Ackermann, whose specialty was conducting Mozart operas and Turandot is a work that has much in common with Mozart's milieu down even to the modest orchestral forces utilized. The cast is very good, with principals Karl Sablotzke, Charles Gillig, Fritz Uhl, and Richard Bedel delivering an alert account of the patter singing in the midst of the first act. For a mid-century revival of an early 20th century work hardly anyone knew in 1959, the Bern production was excellently well achieved.

This Urania release is the fourth release of the Otto Ackermann Turandot; in addition to the MR LP it appeared again on vinyl on an Italian Laudis LP and finally on a Foyer CD, both issued early in the digital era. Urania claims "Superior Audiophile Quality" on the front cover, and it is true that it has conquered the tape hiss in the original recording. But this results in a very quiet recording of limited range; you really have to crank this baby up, and when you do the voices tend to distort and the orchestra is the most difficult element to detect. This recording originated with SSR SRG; perhaps someday there could be a podcast of it or it could released in some form through one of the label partners so it can be heard in something approaching the sound of the original document. In any event, this should not be considered a viable substitute for either the Nagano or Albrecht recordings, and while the Urania disc is tolerable, it's far from ideal for either the performance or the opera under consideration.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Turandot (A Chinese Fable)
1 1:15
2 4:19
3 1:57
4 2:05
5 1:49
6 2:30
7 1:20
8 2:58
9 2:31
10 1:41
11 2:35
12 5:57
13 9:33
14 0:32
15 3:20
16 1:08
17 2:52
18 3:23
19 0:09
20 1:16
21 2:09
22 0:22
23 2:18
24 3:39
25 2:07
26 9:00
blue highlight denotes track pick