Karl Amadeus Hartmann's opera, based upon Grimmelshausen's picaresque novel of the thirty years' war, has not been seen on stage or heard in concert in the UK. Yet it's one of the most important German operas of the 20th century; it was composed during the mid-30s, but couldn't be performed under the Nazis because of the unmistakable parallels it draws with the situation in Europe. (It was staged for the first time only in 1949.) Markus Stenz's fine performance - with an oustanding Juliane Banse as the naive shepherd boy, Simplicius, who finds himself surrounded by the horror and farce of war - was recorded in 2012. Like the BR Klassik recording of the opera from 2009, with Camilla Nylund in the title role, it uses the original version of the score, which is more unsparingly pessimistic and much more indebted to the principles of Brechtian epic theatre than the substantial revision that Hartmann made in the 1950s. Stenz and his cast capture that raw intensity very truthfully.
Hugely admired . . . Brazil'sNelson Freire, early in his career; (below) conductor Markus Stenz