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Wagner: Lohengrin [Hybrid SACD, SACD, Box set]

Richard Wagner Audio CD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: £31.20 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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The German composer Richard Wagner was born on 22nd May 1813 in Leipzig and was raised by his mother and step-father in Dresden. His step-father, Ludwig Geyer, was an actor and playwright and Wagner's first forays into the creative world were on the stage. Whilst still at school, Wagner wrote the tragic play Leubald which he decided to set to music.

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Product details

  • Conductor: Sychkov
  • Composer: Wagner
  • Audio CD (2 Mar 2009)
  • Please Note: Requires SACD-compatible hardware
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Hybrid SACD, SACD, Box set
  • Label: Profil
  • ASIN: B001OBT3M0
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 37,141 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Lohengrin - Various Performers

Product Description

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Satisfying production 26 Mar 2013
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
A rewarding performance; clear diction, faultless singing and well balanced state of the art recording. The pace was leisurely but held the attention. Recommended.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Curate's Egg of A Performance 3 Mar 2011
Format:Audio CD
The proverbial curate's egg-good in parts. This recording has attracted wide critical praise, and in my personal view, that is a reflection of the lowered standards of Wagner performance that have come to be expected. Much of this recording is frankly second-rate, while other elements are superb. Ms Pieczonka is a fine dramatic singer, but has developed unsteadiness not just in her upper register but throughout her range, and has a tendency to shriek at top notes. She is not a terrible Elsa by any means, but hardly first rate. Schulte as the Herald has a similar problem with sustaining a legato, and while once again, this is not a disaster, his performance cannot compare with some of the earlier exponents of this important role.
The remaining lead roles fare much better-Petra Lang has lost some of the "shine" in her vocal tone, which is a tad grey at times, but she is still a superb dramatic vocal actress and gives a fine committed performance as Ortrud. Youn is a sonorous imposing King, and then we come to the set's real triumphs-Struckmann's Telramund is as fine as any, equalling Thomas Stewart's superb performance for Kubelik, and Botha's Lohengrin is superb, and if any reason could be singled out for buying this set it would be his performance. Firm of tone, lyrical and heroic by turns, he has progressed as an artist beyond expectations since his early appearances on disc. His is as fine a Lohengrin as can be found on record.
The major let-downs are the conducting of Bychkov and the recording-both blow "hot and cold" in an extremely irritating way.
Bychkov starts off well, and the playing is superb-but midway through the first Act, the tension drops, the chorus sounds dull, and the recording becoming recessed-and this happens time and time again.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BBC Magazine Opera Recording of the Year!!!~~~A Lohengrin to Treasure, and, in Spectacular Sound 11 April 2010
By Gregory E. Foster - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Being a great lover of Wagner's works, I am always glad to see new releases, and always interested in where their place is in the pantheon of great recordings that have come before. We are, indeed, fortunate to have recently had two wonderful new recordings...a really good Ring from Bayreuth with Thielemann, and this spectacular new Lohengrin from Cologne with Bychkov.

I was aware of this new SACD release for some time, and sort of "noted" it in my mind to follow up on it. I had read some early reviews and moved on to other items. Then, it came up as a nomination for the Gramophone Awards, making it to the Finals....and, now, it is also a Finalist for the BBC Awards, soon to be announced. With these two recognitions, I decided to wake up and take notice, so I bought it, and a happy listener I am, Indeed!

This recording is an honest bewilderment to me. It "came out of nowhere", with an "unknown cast" (basically), and further, from an "unknown" conductor, with an orchestra one would just not think of for a work like this. This brought on my original hesitancy in purchasing it earlier in the year. Happily for us, this is one of those supreme moments when everything simply comes together, and the total is so much more than the sum of all of its individual parts. Bychkov has brought a near "dream cast" together, and coached and honed them to a level of near perfection. Here we have truly beautiful singing and playing, a shining documentation of what this ensemble has been able to bring together for these performances, luckily for us, recorded; and further, in multi-channel SACD!

Botha, whom I had not previously even heard of, certainly has already made a great mark with this magnificent performance as Lohengrin, and one can only hope for more roles in the Wagner canon from him. I certainly, for one, do wish him well, and all the best in what looks to be a wonderful future. He possesses a remarkably fine voice, which bodes well for the future of Wagner's heldentenor roles. Soft and gentle...tender even, in those places when called for, and also strong and broadly masculine in the more dramatic and declamatory ones. He is not, of course (nor I guess we could not hope for), another Sandor Konya.

Pieczonka as Elsa is also new to me, and like Botha, she fills her role beautifully. She has a distinctness in her voice that fits Elsa's strangeness and gives her great dimension. Her assuredness in her presentation, beautifully sung, is thrilling to hear. Best, when she makes her voice go dark; once she realizes what she has brought about, her remorse is deeply moving.

Lang as Otrud is very well done, and she is certainly not lacking in her fiery hatred and bitterness, although she is somewhat lightweight (it is hard not to think of Varnay or Ludwig in this role). Struckmann gives us a second take as Telramund having sung the role before for Barenboim a few years back. Of course, he is dark and malicious and connivingly excellent.

The secondary parts are all nicely done, without any weak links anywhere, further adding a wonderful polish on this remarkable project. The choral work, so important to this opera, is just exemplary...I have never ever been so struck by any previous ensemble in this opera...it's lovely.

Bychkov, at the helm, has truly done a wonderful job bringing, and holding, all these elements together. His take is just right with his timing, nothing rushed, yet certainly forceful and dramatic and tender and lush everywhere one would wish for. He truly gets some inspired and gorgeous playing from his forces here, excitingly captured in SACD multi channel! In addition, he gives back to his Lohengrin the WHOLE Grail Narrative, which exists on only 3 recordings, counting this one. He has also restored all other usual cuts to the score to their proper places, which alone makes this a Must-Have recording.

This is a recording of Lohengrin to treasure,

Honored by both Gramophone and BBC magazines with nods for Best Opera Recording (runner-up with Gramophone, WINNER with BBC Magazine), this Lohengrin is simply wonderful...a must-have for your collection. It belongs on any serious Wagner lover's shelves...right up there with those of Knappertsbusch, Cluytens, Sawallisch and Kempe.

Enjoy it!

ADDENDUM 4/21/10:

How Lovely!
~ I just received an email from BBC Magazine with a recap and an update from the end of the 2010 Record Awards, and I now find that this recording went on to become DISC OF THE YEAR in addition to OPERA RECORDING OF THE YEAR!

You Simply MUST hear this recording for yourself...it is Magnificent!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A LOHENGRIN TO REMEMBER 6 Oct 2009
By Corno di Bass Trombono - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Although many of the singers will be unfamiliar to most opera goers, this is a performance with no weaknesses and many superlatives. Most of the success is due to the superb and understanding conducting of Bychkov, a conductor who has not been too frequent a visitor to the microphones. Another plus is the clear and natural SACD sound that throws the music in bold relief as no other has done before. This joins the five other recordings in my collection, and threatens to topple them all. Purchase is mandatory.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Lohengrins on commercial recordings 29 Oct 2012
By Pekinman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Semyon Bychkov has shown himself to be a very impressive Wagnerian, live in the opera houses of Europe and on the concert stages of Germany
where he conducts most often, notably in Cologne where this recording of Lohengrin took place with the West German Radio Symphony chorus and
symphony orchestra.

This Profil recording is perhaps the best-cast Lohengrin since Rudolf Kempe's famous and magnificent recording from Vienna in 1963.
That cast will probably never be bettered but Bychkov has come very close with these wonderful singers. Indeed Johan Botha's Lohengrin
is perhaps the most beautifully sung performance of them all. Kempe's Jess Thomas for all his great strengths and heroic tone lacked the
honeyed-tones displayed in abundance by Botha. Peter Seiffert, for Barenboim on Teldec, comes closest to this tonal beauty along with
Klaus-Florian Vogt's amazing boy-like sound for Nagano on the Opus Arte dvd from Baden-Baden in 2006. And Siegfried Jerusalem, Abbado
from Vienna on DGG, is more sympathetic and well-rounded than Thomas.

What struck me immediately was the dreamlike atmosphere Bychkov creates in the ethereal opening, like faint clouds gradually forming
in a soft blue sky, coalescing in to a splendid radiance at a leisurely but not wafting pace. This opening prelude is stunning, like I've
never heard before in any recording of this beautiful opera.

The Cologne radio orchestra plays as if they had all performed at Bayreuth for years. This does not sound like a studio recording beyond the
static placement of the singers, though they do move about a little, more so in the 2nd and 3rd acts. My only complaint about the crystal-clear
and deep-seated sound is the lack of presence, occasionally, of the two female leads. Adrianne Pieczonka sounds a little set-back in Act one, her voice
not ringing out in a totally satisfying manner. It isn't her problem, her voice is large and extremely beautiful. And perhaps it is the SACD recording
played on my regular cd player and iPod that diminishes her impact. In fact I strongly suspect that to be the case and I MUST now purchase
an SACD player. The spaciousness of the engineering is not so loose and diffuse as to lose focus on the drama.

This sounds like a live opera performance, without stage sounds. The dramatic conviction of the singers drew me in to the story immediately with the entrance
of Kwangchul Youn's vivid and lively King Henry. Youn has a beautiful bass-baritone voice, lacking the last ounce of deep basso
security one finds in the performances of Kurt Moll (Abbado) and Gottlob Frick (Kempe). Eike Wilm Schulte is a veteran Herald and starts the ball
rolling with great confidence and authority. The Herald is often cast a little feebly when in fact his is a very important role and sets the tone
at the start.

Falk Struckmann is a very fine Telramund, steady of voice and intensely acted. He lacks the subtlety and beauty of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Kempe)
but is for easier on the ear than Abbado's Alberich-like Hartmut Welker, the one disappointment in that otherwise brilliant recording.

Adrianne Pieczonka comes very close to topping Elisabeth Grümmer's stunning Elsa for Kempe. That old EMI recording did a bit of knob-twiddling
to make Grümmer audible at the end of Act one, but beyond that she still holds the edge in this luxurious role.

It would be over-stating the fact to say that the great Petra Lang was in any way a disappointment as Ortrud. She is a superb singer and musician
and her acting in her singing is on a par with the greats in this role, Christa Ludwig (Kempe) and Waltraud Meier (Abbado). The difference with Lang
is she is so feminine and vulnerable in parts. The vehemence is certainly there but the famous "Entweihte Götter" outburst in Act 2 does not
knock your socks off like the other two ladies mentioned. Ludwig absolutely brings one close to cardiac arrest! But her Ortrud for Kempe is one
of the most famous and thrilling performances on record of anyone singing anything!!

I have many recordings of Lohengrin and Bychkov's falls in to the top three. His great advantage is the most advanced sound possible and his
way with so much in this opera that often passes unnoticed but is here highlighted and interesting, not to mention extremely beautiful and
enlightening. Old Wagnerians are always looking for further enlightenment, rather like alcoholics or heroin addicts who keep taking more and
more and hope for a new level of ecstasy. Bychkov reaches new levels often enough in this splendid recording.

If you are new to this opera and want the best possible sound, get the Bychkov. Then, if you love what you hear, get the famous and unbeatable
(in my opinion) Kempe. The Abbado is also highly recommended as a third choice, if you don't want them all!
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A well-rounded Lohengrin with Botha as the standout 14 Jun 2009
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
First off, one has to be grateful for any new recording of a major Wagner opera. I hope the idea of taping concert performances catches on. For the time being, sadly, studio recordings of Wagner aren't commercially viable. On the downside, the Amazon review (quoted from a highly unreliable online source) drastically oversells this new Lohengrin. It isn't of the same caliber as Abbado's successful DG recording with Siegfried Jerusalem and Cheryl Studer or Solti's on Decca with Domingo and Jessye Norman. Not only is Bychkov's cast not that stellar, but it's unreasonable to expect his Cologne orchestra to match the glorious Vienna Phil., which plays on both the earlier sets. Also of note is Colin Davis's set on RCA/BMG for the thrilling Lohengrin of Ben Heppner.

Here we have a solid, well-sung performance that benefits from Bychkov's pacing, which is a shade brisk and always forward-moving. I can't say that he's a great Wagnerian, however. At times the music unfolds from bar to bar without a sense that Bychkov can shape an entire dramatic scene. Even so, the playing is fine and the recorded sound clear and natural (I haven't heard the SACD format).

It quickly becomes apparent that this is Johan Botha's show: his sweet but expansive voice is perfectly suited to the title role. Like Heppner, he balances the lyric and heroic, being neither a true Heldentenor like Melchior nor a beefed-up lyric tenor like Jerusalem and Windgassen. Botha's ability to spin out a long legato line with even tone is very commendable, not to mention unusual in this day and age. The other male standout is Falk Struckmann as Telramund. It's possible to construct a half-sympathetic portrayal, but it's more fun when Telramund is sneering and sardonic, as here, and Struckmann's throaty, not very attractive timbre fits the role well.

Among the women, the Elsa of Adrianne Pieczonka is innocent and appealing but rather a blank dramatically. Her voice sounds on disc like a pure lyric soprano, a size smaller than Grummer's or Studer's in this role. The tone is very pleasing, and the only noticeable flaw is that the voice spreads under pressure in the top range. The portrayal overall is pleasant rather than memorable. As Ortrud, Petra Lang is light-voiced for the part but a flexible singing actress. In part Lang succeeds by omission -- she leaves out the bawling scenery-chewing antics so many of her rival Ortruds indulge in. Her great outburst of vengeance in Act 2 is handled too cautiously, however.

As for the remaining forces, the Herald and King Heinrich are nondescript, the chorus good but not a standout. I am baffled by anyone going gaga over this new Lohengrin, which settles comfortably in the middle of the pack. Unless you must have SACD surround sound, the earlier standbys from Kempe, Solti, and Abbado are much more exciting dramatically and musically.
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars stunning 14 April 2009
By dimitri mahler - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
great recording , great version, can't tell you who is better or worse than rival versions but these voices are solid, pleasing, firm, in tune! I've been enjoying this conductor over the last 5 years, this is a beautiful new offering from him. The sound is out of the park... great sacd instrument and voice placement, I'd say model sacd sound. In fact to digress, if one can afford a decent system these days, around 10 grand (4,000 speakers, 3,000 amp, 1800 sacd player (yes the better ones sound better) 1,000 sub woffer) don't bother with surround sound, 2 channel sacd is a delight...) then one can be simply, well, stunned, with the better made sacd discs out there and in general many/most are.
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