Ulf Schirmer

Karl Amadeus Hartmann: Des Simplicius Simplicissimus Jugend

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Karl Amadeus Hartmann created several versions of his only full-length opera, Simplicius Simplicissimus, making it difficult for scholars and performers to establish a definitive version of the score. This recording, taken from a 2005 performance at Munich's Prinzregentheater, is based on a reconstruction of Hartmann's original 1936 version made by Wilfried Hiller and Robert Klimesch. Some of their choices seem odd; they include the 10-minute Prokofievian overture Hartmann added in 1939, which has little to do with the piece as a whole, but they omit the musically ravishing and dramatically critical Interlude the composer added at the same time. They also use the Hartmann's original spartan orchestration and restore some spoken dialogue. The work sidesteps many of the conventions of opera, and resembles Stravinsky's L'histoire du Soldat musically and formally, but it also includes operatic singing. It would be easy to enumerate the influences audible in the score -- which include most obviously Stravinsky, Hindemith, Weill, Orff, and Schoenberg -- but Hartmann's visionary synthesis is individual and effective, and he doesn't sound quite like anyone else. The opera, set during the Thirty Years' War, is a transparent critique of the Third Reich, so it's no wonder that it was not produced until after the war. The performance reveals it to be a work, that despite its quirkiness, has a raw power musically and dramatically. Ulf Schirmer offers strong leadership of Münchner Rundfundorchester and Die Singphoniker, turning in a committed and virtuosic performance that makes a good case for the opera. As the child Simplicius, soprano Camilla Nylund fully inhabits the role, and sings with strength and warmth. Will Hartmann is a vigorously forceful Hermit, but tends to sound strained in the upper register. Baritone Christian Gerhaher sings powerfully as the Mercenary. The sound of the live recording is clear and present. The album includes an interview, in German, with editor Wilfried Hiller and conductor Schirmer, and archival taped comments by the composer and his wife.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Des Simplicius Simplicissimus Jugend
1 10:11
2 3:22
3 3:16
4 4:02
5 2:14
6 3:03
7 3:12
8 4:06
9 3:31
10 1:53
11 2:56
12 2:40
13 2:18
14 3:46
15 1:40
16 2:12
17 2:14
18 1:51
blue highlight denotes track pick