The performance on this recording is right on the money. The production--as in so many Chailly recordings--is so transparent that even in the densest passages, all the tiny details are crisp and clean, sparklingly clear. Some folks may find this distracting--the sort of folks who dislike the amazingly detailed balances in Leonard Bernstein's recordings of La Mer, perhaps. But the vast romantic dramatic curves are all there, too, and the casting is wonderful. After hearing many other recordings of this work, here at last I find one which reveals details of the score which I'd seen on the page but not heard clearly before. Considering that this work has been recorded by many of the heaviest hitters in romantic music (e.g. Boulez), it's pretty amazing that something more can be drawn from it.
Of course, the work itself is a delight, with its leitmotif construction, through-composition breaking into ariosos that extend Wagner's ideas in new directions, and inclusion even of Sprechstimme--that burlesque-inspired antecedent to rap and Rex Harrison's "singing" and other forms of non-sung poetic recitation to music. Unlike the macabre riffs on vulgarity in Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, the recitation in the penultimate scene of Gurrelieder aspires to and attains a certain nobility akin to performances of Shakespeare with incidental music. The heavy iron chains and triple men's choir of the ghost scenes, the soloists, the concluding chorus--all the elements of this great work are in place and compelling in this recording.