Lebendige Vergangenheit - Ludwig Weber

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Lebendige Vergangenheit

Vienna, Munich and Bayreuth were the main focal points in the career of the Austrian bass Ludwig Weber. He sang, of course, in many other cities of the German-language area and gave guest performances at the Covent Garden Opera in London, La Scala in Milan, the Paris Opera, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, in Brussels, Rome and Florence (to mention only three European cities), and at the Salzburg Festival. All the same, it was in the three abovementioned places that he was able to develop his artistry to the full, and most of his recordings are connected with them. Ludwig Weber was born in Vienna on 29 July 1899. He first studied stage design with one of its foremost masters, Alfred Roller, but then turned to singing. After receiving his vocal training from Alfred Boruttau he was engaged in 1920 by Felix von Weingartner, who was then the director of Vienna’s Volksoper. In the course of five seasons Weber acquired a substantial repertoire of small bass roles, and he was fortunate in being able to appear on the stage several times with the famous Italian baritone Mattia Battistini. The vocal style of that unparalleled master remained a model and guideline for Weber throughout his career. Further engagements followed in Barmen-Elberfeld (Wuppertal), Düsseldorf, Cologne, and finally at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, where, during Clemens Krauss’s period as director (1937-1944), Weber became one of the pillars of the company. After 1945 he belonged to the Vienna State Opera company for nearly twenty years. After ending his stage career he taught singing for several years at the Salzburg Mozartheum and other institutions. Ludwig Weber, the bearer of many distinctions and awards, died in Vienna on 9 December 1974. All the big bass roles were in Weber’s repertoire. He sang Mozart’s Sarastro and Commendatore, Beethoven’s Rocco, Kaspar in Weber’s “Freischütz”, Wagner’s bass parts, Baron Ochs in “Der Rosenkavalier”, but also many Verdi roles (Guardian, Ramphis, Fiesco), as well as several new operas, among them Alban Berg’s “Wozzeck”. Weber’s voice had an unusually wide range and a volume of sound that occasionally – as in the final scene of “Don Giovanni” – took on almost superhuman dimensions. And yet, the gentle, mild and delicate tones his powerful voice could produce were a constant source of astonishment. His “piano” was almost more impressive than his resounding “forte”.Of the many roles Weber sang, especially two stand out: Gurnemanz in Wagner’s “Parsifal”, which he embodied so incomparably at the first post-war performance in Bayreuth in 1951, and something utterly different, a role which does not necessarily fall into the bass “province”, the title figure in Moussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov”. As Boris, Weber attained a degree of greatness as a singer and actor which can only be compared to the peak achievements of operatic art.