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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly great performance and recording of this exotic masterpiece, 14 Feb 2011
D. S. CROWE "Music Lover" (UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Schoenberg: Gurrelieder (Audio CD)
"This is the greatest work of Wagner not by Wagner" goes an old quote and I would not argue. This work of post-Tristan Wagnerian derivation is one of the last great throws of Romanticism as it topples-very nearly at times in this work-into modernism and the Second Viennese school. However, those who cannot get to grips with atonality will find nothing to frighten them here. The subject is straight out of Wagner-"star-crossed" lovers in a forbidden relationship, vengeful spouses, anti-heroes doomed to wander through eternity-redemption through compassion-it's all there. Wagner had structural difficulties with the Ring in particular, in recounting all the background elements of the plot-Schoenberg gets round this quite simply-he ignores them completely, and instead of constructing a 23 hour operatic saga, he gives us a couple of hours of a broken sequential dramatic song cycle which requires us to know the story to which the various movements apply.
The obvious first choice recording is the superb Levine Munich recording on OEHMS, as there are no cast weaknesses and Ben Heppner is the definitive Waldemar in his best voice ever. The Sinopoli starts off with a disadvantage of not only NOT having Heppner, but in having Thomas Moser as a dry-toned Waldemar who struggles with some of the higher tessitura, but who is in better voice than on the disappointing Rattle recording. I actually quite admire his technique in coping with the demands of this taxing role, and he makes a fair job of the more lyrical songs and were it not for Heppner, we would be more satisfied with his performance-but no further allowances need to be made for the rest of the cast. Deborah Voight is simply superb-she has never sung better, and surpasses her own performance for Levine. Jennifer Larmore is more than the equal of Waltraud Meier as the Wood Dove, Weikl is a fine operatic Bauer and Kenneth Riegel, who made such a success of such roles as "Der Zwerg" and whose voice is so reminiscent of Gerhard Stolze is ideally suited to and makes a triumph of Klaus-Narr. The Sprecher is the celebrated Austrian actor Klaus-Maria Brandauer and his performance almost justifies the cost of the set alone.
Finally, there are Sinopoli and the Orchestra and Chorus. He is more insightful, more interventionist in his reading than Levine in his "straighter" view-he creates a truly exotic chamber music effect in the romantic songs, conjures up breath taking (and speaker taxing) climaxes in the more dramatic passages and true Wagnerian nobility and grandeur when needed. The orchestral interludes are stunning, as is the contribution of the seemingly huge chorus. His dramatic pacing and tempi are revelatory-the closing bars of the Wood Dove song have left me breathless, such is the power and drama. Even the magnificent Munich Philharmonic is totally outshone by the Dresden Staatskappelle-chorus and orchestra, and the recording is spacious and detailed-also live- and vividly captures the ambience of the Semper Opera venue. Returning to this set has again saddened me that we lost this great Maestro so tragically young, and there could be no finer tribute than this to his genius.
The ideal solution is to have both Levine and Sinopoli-they have different strengths. The Levine has a better Waldemar (by far), but in all other respects I would give the nod to this set-but these are hairbreadth preferences.
If you are considering purchasing this set, I can say that there is no finer performance than this one, and any deficiencies are more than offset by the glories of the performance and recording. A truly magnificent recording of a masterpiece.
5 Stars plus. Stewart Crowe.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spoiling the ship...the dolorous audit, 10 Mar 2012
Ralph Moore "Ralph operaphile" (Bishop's Stortford, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Schoenberg: Gurrelieder (Audio CD)
So, I've licked my pencil and printed off my checklist - here goes:

Passionate conducting marshalling vast forces skilfully in the person of Sinopoli: tick; a resplendent-voiced Tove with gleaming top notes and a breathless, girlish sensuality that cuts through the thick orchestral textures - that's Deborah Voigt: tick; a first-rate orchestra entirely at home in Wagnerian excess and exuding class - that's the Dresdeners: tick; all the advantages of a live performance without any of the usual attendant inconveniences such as coughers, superbly recorded: tick; a Wood Dove with trenchant low notes, plaintive and plangent of voice which is redolent of the deepest melancholy and possessing a ringing top - that's the young Jennifer Larmore to a T: tick; a tenor with the heft and beauty of tone to suggest a flawed hero enslaved by an illicit passion...Thomas Moser, aaaargh! His brawny, bleaty blare is a humongous blot on an otherwise glorious recording and is wholly responsible for my subtracting a star from this 1995 live performance which would otherwise rival that of James Levine in Munich. Levine also offers us the divine Voigt in finest form but trumps Sinopoli with the finest heroic tenor of the last generation before Jonas Kaufmann in the person of Ben Heppner, delivering the performance of a lifetime as the dazed and baffled Waldemar, who spits his rage and despair in the face of God.

Because, unlike Tristan and Isolde, the lovers never duet, perhaps proleptically hinting at the doomed nature of their liaison, you cannot even listen to Moser's baritonal barking and be simultaneously distracted by Voigt's crystalline tones - and he has more to sing than anyone, so I have no choice other than regretfully to signal that blot on an otherwise glorious account; try that last pagan splurge, "The Wild Hunt of the Summer Wind" for goose bumps. But Moser - please, why?
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3 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wagner revisted, 27 Oct 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Schoenberg: Gurrelieder (Audio CD)
For wagner fans who like to draw truths of our existence from mythical sources this is a must have CD. Schoenberg is in a musically palatable mood (he has not quite gone atonal yet). The scale of the piece is awe-inspiring with huge orchestral and choral scoring. Music shows superb inventiveness and power, but is clearly drawing on Wagnerian heritage... to great effect. Highly recommended.
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Schoenberg: Gurrelieder
Schoenberg: Gurrelieder by Arnold Schoenberg (Audio CD - 1996)
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