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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wozzeck as Berg wanted to hear it, 25 July 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Berg: Wozzeck (Audio CD)
If you are already familiar with atonal music, and are getting slightly bored with Bohm's, Dohnanyi's or Boulez' versions of this opera, this recording may be for you. The recording was live from Vienna, which means there is some audience noise, but nothing too distracting. The orchestra is therefore placed really forward, which sometimes obscures the singers, but on the other hand gives this version a sense of violence and madness, that I wasn't able to detect on other versions. Abbado conducts wonderfully. He is as always precise and clear, but this time he is really into the music and is very passionate about it. The singers are also very good. Grundheber is direct and moving, although he exaggerates somewhat in the murder scene. A completely differend approach to Fischer-Dieskau's (DG). Behrens is very moving and also sounds young and more vulnerable than many other Marie's. I was also impressed with Zednik's Hauptmann, although Haugland's doctor was rather prosaic. All in all, I find that this version truly captures Berg's piece and all its violence, compassion and final hope.
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5.0 out of 5 stars the placing and movement of the military band in Act 1 scene 3 is pretty well ideal, 6 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Berg: Wozzeck (Audio CD)
We hear it (Abbado's new live recording) from the front row of the stalls, with a theatrical rather than a studio balance between singers and orchestra, and the sense of a real stage with real action taking place upon it is very strong: the placing and movement of the military band in Act 1 scene 3 is pretty well ideal; so are the two crowded inn-scenes. More important still, one is aware that this is a genuine performance, not a studio replica of one. A tiny example is the way that Behrens's voice momentarily breaks with pity and guilt as Marie thanks Wozzeck for giving her his wages: it is a spur-of-the-moment thing, even an involuntary one, and certainly not premeditated; it is over in a second, but it adds a poignantly graphic stroke to her portrayal. The touch of Viennese schmalz that comes over Grundheber's Wozzeck when he says what he would do if I were a gentleman, with a hat and eye-glasses is another such moment; it tells you precisely what Wozzeck's image of genteel morality is, and how unbridgeably remote from it he knows himself to be, but I think Grundheber chose that inflexion for a Viennese audience, and might have abandoned it when repeating his performance in a studio for home listeners in Tokyo or Tucson . . . Wozzeck is an expressionist score, not a late romantic one; there is a danger that once the hideous difficulties of playing it have been mastered, an orchestra will be tempted by the obvious, just-under-the-surface kinships with Mahler to play it as though it were Mahler . . . It is good to hear Abbado resisting any temptation to gloss over the shocking brutality and savage grotesqueness that are such crucial elements of the opera's manner. His underlining of a blackly sinister waltz element in scenes where you might not expect to find it, the way that the tavern-band music has something alarming to it from the very outset are both instances of this. Happily, though, the bad habits of overtly expressionist Wozzeck performances (accuracy of pitch and rhythm sacrificed to strenuous histrionics) are met with only rarely here; indeed the emphasis in the sprechstimme passages is very much on stimme, Behrens in particular making a very good case for regarding Berg's precisely notated pitches as proof that he wanted those notes and no others.

Record Review / Gramophone (London) / 01. January 1989
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Berg: Wozzeck by Wiener Philharmoniker (Audio CD)
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