Hans Hotter

by Chris Bertram on December 12, 2003

The Guardian has “an obituary for Hans Hotter”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/news/obituary/0,12723,1105316,00.html , the great Wagnerian singer, who has expired at the age of 94. A sad day for all of us happily infected with the Wagner virus. The obit has the following nice anecdote:

bq. When he made a first visit to London after peace had been declared, he saw a headline in the Evening Standard proclaiming “Hotter In London”, and it took him a few minutes to realise that the newspaper was referring to the weather, not to him.



Thomas Dent 12.12.03 at 1:15 pm

Hotter singing Iago, Escamillo, Boris, Falstaff?

That would be interesting – but alas, probably no recordings survive.

The article also cites Hotter’s “wobble” as confined to the late 40’s. Curious.


Vinteuil 12.12.03 at 3:27 pm

Myto MCD 953 131 has a complete Boris with Hotter, recorded in 1957.

There is also a complete Falstaff from 1939 on Preiser PRCD 90102. The same label also has an extensive set of excerpts from a 1943 Otello featuring Hotter’s Iago.

I’m not sure about Escamillo. I’m also not sure which, if any, of the above are now in print. But, if not, at least there are used copies floating around out there somewhere.

Obviously, anyone unfamiliar with Hotter’s work but curious about it should skip these and start with his Wagner. I’d suggest the 1953 Bayreuth Ring Cycle conducted by Krauss, where his voice is in better shape than it is on the later and better known Solti stereo recordings of Walkure and Siegfried.


Viral 12.12.03 at 3:47 pm

“happily infected with the Wagner virus.”

Virulent Anti-Semitism?


Chris Bertram 12.12.03 at 6:56 pm

Obviously, that’s one aspect of Wagner I can do without. I’m going to try to post a longer piece on Wagner on the site some time soom – meanwhile, I’m off to Parsifal tomorrow.


Vinteuil 12.12.03 at 11:56 pm

Wagner is such an odd case. His writings about jews really are apalling, even recognizing that standards before the holocaust were looser than they are now. Yet he enthusiastically promoted the careers of some prominent jewish musicians, including Hermann Levi, who conducted the first performances of Parsifal (!!!) at Bayreuth.

(Apparently, Wagner was quite conflicted about this. On one occasion, the story goes, he angrily ripped the baton from Levi’s hand mid-act and finished the performance himself–his last outing as a conductor.)

Many, many of Wagner’s best interpreters have been jews: Friedrich Schorr (by far the greatest Wagnerian bass/baritone before Hotter), Georg Solti, Daniel Barenboim…the list could go on and on. Leonard Bernstein’s recording of *Tristan* would be simply matchless, were it not for the dreadful Peter Hofmann in the title role. (Hildegard Behrens, on the other hand, sings with such commitment that one forgive her many vocal trials.)

Anyway. For better or worse, Wagner, like Dostoevsky, but unlike T. S. Eliot, did not live long enough to regret his small supporting role in modern fascistic anti-semitism. One would like (without much confidence) to think that, had he done so, he would have acquitted himself at least as well as did Eliot.

Fortunately, in Wagner as in Dostoevsky, the ideology does not overwhelm the artist. I guess the worst one has to deal with is the portrayal of the Nibelungs, in the Ring, and, perhaps worse, Hans Sachs’s concluding monologue in *Die Meistersinger*. But even that is sufficiently ambigous to be lived down.

I hope Chris Bertram enjoys his performance of *Parsifal*. Than which there is nothing greater.


Vinteuil 12.13.03 at 12:08 am

P.S.: I mentioned Schorr, and Solti, and Barenboim, and Bernstein–but somehow I forgot:

*Gustav Mahler!*

–who revered Wagner even above Beethoven, or his (Mahler’s) great teacher, Anton Bruckner.

My bad.


Curtis Crawford 12.13.03 at 4:30 am

Classica d’Oro 4022 is an excellent, inexpensive transfer of Hans Hotter’s 1942-43 recording of Schubert’s Winterreise, accompanied by Michael Raucheisen.

The voice is richer and much more expressive than in his later recording with Gerald Moore, which sounds as if he let Moore control the tempi.


Thomas Dent 12.13.03 at 3:12 pm

Someone certainly knows their CD catalogues. I suppose the Verdi and Mussorgsky are sung in German?

For Hotter’s Wotan, I can recommend the 1956 Ring cycle with Knappertsbusch on Music and Arts – definitely available. The singing taken over the whole cast may not be quite at the level of 1953 but the conducting and sound are probably better.

As for Parsifal, it was the least played of Wagner’s mature operas under the Third Reich. The emphasis on Christianity, compassion and nonviolence was completely opposite to Nazi ideology. Gotterdammerung, containing the ignominious death of the hero Siegfried and the immolation of the Gods, didn’t get much of a shake either.

Beethoven, on the other hand, was found eminently acceptable for reinforcing the Volk and the Reich. Strength through Freude and all that.


Thomas Dent 12.13.03 at 3:17 pm

Oh yeah, Classica d’Oro is reputed to be mainly a pirate label which makes cheap knock-offs. Which isn’t to say that they are incapable of putting out good transfers, but they tend to be transfers of other people’s transfers.

Opera d’Oro is the other wing of the operation: their release of the 1950 Furtwangler Ring came out a few months after Music and Arts’, cost half as much and is sonically identical. (Music and Arts stopped producing theirs soon afterwards.) Caveat emptor, etc.


Michael Otsuka 12.13.03 at 11:21 pm

It’s hard to think of a better Wotan, but I think Fischer-Dieskau eclipsed his Winterreise.

Classica d’Oro’s version of Winterreise must be a transfer of a CD which Deutsche Grammophon released in the early 90s.


Vinteuil 12.14.03 at 12:06 am

thomas dent: you’re quite right, the Falstaff is in German. I should have mentioned that. It’s available in the U.S. for cheap (12 bucks) from the (invaluable) Berkshire Record Outlet.

I can’t get any detailed info about the Boris. Munich, 1957, all German Cast (including the redoubtable Martha Modl!), Jochum conducting–so I’d assume it’s the Rimsky edition sung in German, but that’s only a guess.

Knappertsbusch is certainly…well, more *dyed in the wool*, one might say, than Krauss, who’s a bit brisk, a la Karl Bohm.

Unfortunately, the Knappertsbusch set is terribly expensive, while the Krauss appears to be entirely out of print.

If anyone asks me *really nicely*, I’ll make a copy of the Krauss for free and send it off with my compliments. What the hell? Blank CD’s are cheap.


Vinteuil 12.14.03 at 12:24 am

michael otsuka: I’m glad to see that not everyone has succumbed to the anti-Fischer-Dieskau reaction of recent years (“fussy,” “mannered,” “barking,” etc.) But I hope we don’t have to choose between his Winterreise and Hotter’s. Each in its way.

If we *did* have to choose just one…let’s face it. These are tenor songs. Give me Christoph Pregardien and Andreas Staier on a period piano any day of the week. If those two don’t reduce you to tears, than you have no heart.


Thomas Dent 12.15.03 at 11:17 am

I was lucky enough to hear an old Hotter birthday tribute on Austrian Radio yesterday that they repeated specially. Living in Greece has its benefits…

They had Iago’s narration “Cassio dormiva” (except of course it was “Cassio liegt schlafend” or something), Falstaff’s flashback to his early years “Quand’ ero paggio” (“Wenn ich war Knecht zum Duke von Norfolk”?), some rare Wolf songs, and a great performance of Wotan’s farewell scene from Walkure with the Philharmonia under Leopold Ludwig.

You can get a disc of Wagner excerpts with a young Birgit Nilsson, including the duet from the Dutchman and the entire last scene of Walkure with Hotter and Ludwig on Testament. The Amazon reviews are uniformly five stars: e.g.

“This is a stunning set of Wagner pieces. You must get it!!! I very very highly recommend it because Birgit Nilsson and Hans Hotter are incredible – just pure incredible!!! Talk about power! This is nuclear power. And beautiful nuclear power too!!”


Chris McQuaid 12.27.03 at 7:34 pm

1962 Parsifal Bayreuther Festspiele.


Chris McQuaid 12.27.03 at 7:35 pm

1962 Parsifal Bayreuther Festspiele.


Chris McQuaid 12.27.03 at 7:43 pm

I was very sorry to hear the news of the death of Hans Hotter the greatist ever Gurnemanz-especially in Act I “..das gaben sie in unsres hut……The 1962 Parsifal from the Bayreuther Festspiele.Christopher McQuaid,Chair,The Wagner Society of Ireland.

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