Pfitzner: Die Rose vom Liebesgarten

Reviewed on Mon 28 Aug, 2017

Pfitzner’s Die Rose vom Liebesgarten was already sounding anachronistic when first staged in 1905. The heady but stultifyingly static concoction that results will be an acquired taste for many – even those who can overlook James Grun’s fanciful libretto.

Here’s a curio. Pfitzner’s Die Rose vom Liebesgarten was already sounding anachronistic when first staged in 1905. A Lohengrin-like, symbolism-laden fable of chivalric romance, its lushly orchestrated romanticism owes much to Wagner but is also laced (albeit half-heartedly) with the dark, impressionist interiority of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande. The heady but stultifyingly static concoction that results will be an acquired taste for many – even those who can overlook James Grun’s fanciful libretto. Admirers of Pfitzner’s infinitely superior Palestrina may balk, too, at the score’s untrammelled self-indulgent emotionalism. But this 2009 performance from Opernhaus Chemnitz benefits from Frank Beermann and the Robert-Schumann-Philharmonie’s ardent if not wholly persuasive advocacy that is decidedly less antique-sounding than Robert Heger’s historic but uneven 1953 account on Gala. Given the idiosyncrasy of the material, vocal performances are largely admirable, although none, individually or collectively, make a persuasive claim for a work that falls between several stools.
–Michael Quinn