RIES: Die Räuberbraut, Op. 156
Ruth Ziesak (Laura). Julia Borchert (Gianettina). Thomas Blondell (Fernando). Jochen Kupfer (Graf Viterbo). Cristian Immler (Anselmo). Konstantine Wolff (Carlo). York Felix Speer (Râuberhauptmann Roberto). WDR Chorus and Orchestra Köln/Howard Griffiths, cond.
CPO 777 655 (2 disks) TT: 124:53
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EICHNER: Harp Concertos:No. 1 in C Op. 6. Concerto in G, Op. 5 No. 1. Concerto in D, Op. 5 No. 2. Concerto in D, Op. 9.
Silke Aichhorn, harp. Kurpfälszisches Kammerorchester/Stefan Fraas, cond.
CPO 777 835 TT: 79:23
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Die Räuberbraut ("The Robber Bride") by Ferdinand Ries created quite a sensation when premiered in Frankfurt in 1828. It was the first opera by Ries, who was a close associate of Beethoven, who thought very highly of him and is music. There were manifold problems with the libretto with Georg Döring and Johann Reiff involved in many changes and re-writes. The opera was presented successfully in many German cities as well as Paris, London and Amsterdam. The convoluted plot involves two rival noblemen, an evil conspirator and the beautiful Laura, who is the Robber Bride when she married Roberto, the group's leader; he died in a dual and she is free to marry Fernando, the man she loves. The opera soon fell into oblivion, but it is easy to understand why it was popular in its early years. The score easily could have been written by Beethoven, the music is memorable with lovely arias and a few sprightly marches. This superb recording makes a strong case for the music with a cast of uniform excellence, although tenor Thomas Blondelle is obviously taxed by elaborate ornamentation in the role of Fernando. Ruth Ziesak is secure as the heroine although on several occasions she produces sounds more appropriate for Rossin's Cat Duet (check CD 1 track 5 - 2:30 and 3:56). Conductor Howard Griffiths keeps things moving nicely. At the conclusion of the final act, producers have given us six brief ballet music excerpts which apparently are part of the score—one wonders why they were not included in the opera where they appear. Audio is superb, and a complete libretto is provided. This is a major release.

German composer Franz Eichner (1740-1777) was highly respected during his time, a musician in the court of Waldeck, known as a virtuoso bassoonist and violinist. He wrote 31 symphonies, chamber music and 20 concertos including some for the harp, four of which are on this superb new CPO issue. They are lovely, big-scale work each with an andante central movement surrounded by lively outer movements. Two of the concertos ( G major and Op. 5 D major) apparently were actually composed by Jean Théophile Eichner, an unknown composer and no information is given about him. At any rate, all of these re delightful concertos beautifully played by German virtuoso Silke Aichhorn, with lively accompaniments by the excellent orchestra directed by Stefan Fraas. The rich sound vividly captures the scintillating sound of the harp.

R.E.B. (February 2014).