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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here's a luxuriantly loving performance
All right, since this review doesn't allow me to give the 4.5 stars this recording deserves when everything's fairly weighed, it may as well get the full five (5). What are my reservations? 1) The lack of a libretto translation in any language (only the German original is included), 2) a very few of the details could have been better-captured had more microphones and...
Published on 2 Sep 2003 by Alexander Z. Damyanovich

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0 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pedestrian thanks to Ozawa
There is no question about Arnold Schönberg's gigantic oratorio "Gurrelieder"'s greatness as being on the very same rarefied plane as any of mankind's other masterpieces in music (e.g., the Beethoven 9th Symphony, the High Mass in b {natural} by JS Bach, the Wagner opera "Tristan und Isolde", or Stravínskiy's ballet "Le Sacre du Printemps,") and most probably...
Published on 2 Sep 2003 by Alexander Z. Damyanovich


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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here's a luxuriantly loving performance, 2 Sep 2003
By 
Alexander Z. Damyanovich (Flesherton, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Schoenberg: Gurrelieder (Audio CD)
All right, since this review doesn't allow me to give the 4.5 stars this recording deserves when everything's fairly weighed, it may as well get the full five (5). What are my reservations? 1) The lack of a libretto translation in any language (only the German original is included), 2) a very few of the details could have been better-captured had more microphones and editing been used and 3) some people want things to move more. While I personally disagree on the last point - for me, this is very, very close to being as ideal an interpretation as one can get - this last observation can't be ignored. As to point 2), this seems largely based on as few takes and equipment set-up as possible (though the result is sumptuous for what it is nevertheless!): there are a few points where some flaws in the strings appear, and a place here and there where a detail or two (e.g., the oboes & clarinets around bar 15 of Part II) could have been better brought out instead of being drowned-out by someone else (e.g., the horns in the same place). Still, all of these are small flaws in a performance that is otherwise as good as any. Yes, one may pick on Manfred Jung as not being quite a Ben Heppner or Lauritz Melchior (which the rôle of Waldemar, being true Heldentenor territory à la Tristan or Siegfried, ideally needs), but his work otherwise leaves nothing to be desired.
Otherwise, now that the negatives are pretty well out of the way, congratulations to everybody concerned. All of the soloists are excellent and committed (for me, Eva-Maria Bundschuh is a special standout as the soprano playing the part of the ill-fated heroine Tove - what a voice!); the choirs are most convincing with both the male-chorus parts of Waldemar's men and later with the grand finale; and the orchestra (neither of the two component orchestras being all that famous to boot!) does superbly with the exception of those few minor weaknesses mentioned above. All of these are conducted most superbly by a conductor who goes even further than the late Giuseppe Sinopoli in attaining the full ripeness, ardency, and tenderness this score evokes - everything that's lacking with Seiji Ozawa's mundane reading is here! Herbert Kegel's empathy with this score, giving it the true spaciousness (without however lacking a true sense of drive nonetheless) required (especially in the love-music of Part I; also, note the 2 or 3 Luftpausen in the same part, how he handles them - an object lesson on how to have such music breathe!!!) in itself deserves the full 5 stars! [Not to mention the fabulous acoustic afforded by Dresden's Lukaskirche (Church of St.Luke) - appropriately spacious for such a superwork!]
All in all: yes, Ozawa's recording, issued at bargain price and with the coupling of both of Schönberg's Chamber Symphonies, can appear attractive (as already noted by somebody else); however, that entails false economy given the pedestrian nature of his performance. Yes, get the libretto translation via the Internet or elsewhere and go for the Kegel recording hereby reviewed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful conducting and orchestral playing in lovely digital sound, 8 Jan 2014
By 
Ralph Moore "Ralph operaphile" (Bishop's Stortford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Schoenberg: Gurrelieder (Audio CD)
The glory of this recording is Kegel's wonderfully intense, Romantic conducting and the corresponding richness of the Dresden Philharmonic. As previous reviewers have noted, you will never hear a more masterful realisation of Schoenberg's voluptuous score, which emphasises its Wagnerian and Debussian chromaticism; sample the simply captivating Interlude for a taste of Kegel's command - it's overwhelming.

This a work that gets under your skin and like many admirers, I can never resist acquiring another version, especially when it is available so cheaply and in such superb, warm, digital sound: it is especially successful in coping with the big choral and instrumental climaxes. My favourite overall, especially for the quality of the two main soloists, is the 2001 recording by Levine from Munich with Voigt and Heppner. Neither soloist here is as good - especially the tenor, Manfred Jung - but Eva-Maria Bundschuh, an artist of whom I was previously unaware perhaps because of her having worked mainly in the former East Germany - is mightily impressive: steady, powerful and impassioned. Jung sounds to me more like a Mime than a Siegfried, so he constitutes the major disappointment here and is the reason for my deduction of a star. The voice is throaty and elderly, with a bleat and a blare; what a pity a better tenor could not have been found to suggest true heroism. He isn't as bad as the ghastly Thomas Moser but he is not in the league of Heppner, McCracken or even the more refined Alexander Young for Ferencsik.

Ferencsik also has an unmatchable Woodbird in Janet Baker; no-one else approaches her although Fassbaender, Troyanos and Larmore are all very fine. Rosemarie Lang is another singer of whom I had not previously heard and although she is a little matronly, hers is a fine, dignified account of the Woodbird's lament. Ulrik Cold is more agricultural of voice than even the role of Farmer justifies, I think; it's a clumsy bit of vocalisation. Wolf Appel and Gert Westphal are characterful as the Fool and Speaker respectively, but like so many, their rather over-emphatic inflections and exaggerations outstay their welcome. The three combined choirs are magnificent, matching the energy and commitment of the orchestra; once again, one is grateful for the ability of the sound engineers to capture their splendour in the famous Lukaskirche venue, which lends real atmosphere. I have never before been so conscious of the importance of the choruses in generating tension and excitement. The spine-tingling finale with its grand, semitone cadences is one big, warm wave of sound.

So this is a great but flawed account. The recording date is given as one day, 5th August, 1986, so I assume that this was a concert or a broadcast - but if an audience was present, they were utterly silent.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great singing, playing, conducting and a superb recording at a bargain price-the top recommendation for this work!, 2 Jan 2014
By 
D. S. CROWE "Music Lover" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Schoenberg: Gurrelieder (Audio CD)
How many times have I read, or indeed written that a particular recording is the sum of its parts?

Well, it's certainly true in this case, as any recording of Gurrelieder has to contend with the Waldemar of Ben Heppner for Levine, the Tove of Voigt even more beautiful for Sinopoli than for Levine, the "Taube" of Jennifer Larmore again for Sinopoli and the Sprecher Role of Hotter and Brandauer, not to mention the great playing of orchestras from Munich and Dresden!

That this recording stands alongside the very best and matches them is proof that the opening statement is indeed true, for individually none of the great artists I mention is surpassed on this recording, but putting all its components together it emerges at the top of the pile!

Gurrelieder is one of the many works with which I am obsessed, and my recordings of it stretch back to the LP era and include recordings by Kubelik, Ferencsik, Ozawa, Chailly, Inbal, Abbado, Mehta (NYPO and IPO), Sinopoli, Rattle, Levine and Salonen, but this 1986 recording under Kegel was one that had escaped my basilisk stare!
I have until recently regarded Kegel as a Mr Reliable who specialised in Contemporary Music to which I am not drawn (by which I mean Henze, Reimann, Zimmermann and the like-I love the Second Viennese School). I was however mightily impressed with his conducting in the 1975 Parsifal, which is not dissimilar to the approach of Boulez but far more lyrical and effective.
I had expected a similar approach here-and could not have been more wrong!

Recorded digitally in 1986 in the Dresden Lukaskirche, a recording venue of historical renown having seen Karajan's Meistersinger, Kempe's Strauss series and countless other immortal recordings made there, the line up features an orchestra of combined forces from Kegel's 2 orchestras, the Dresden Philharmonic and the Leipzig Radio plus massed choirs and soloists caught in stunning sound even by today's standards, capturing the full effect of the vast forces assembled while remaining very detailed . This Brilliant Classics release is from the "Edel Records" (Berlin Classics) re-mastering, and as ever from this source is technically superb, but all praise to the original VEB production team for the original recording.

Kegel, contrary to expectations, gives us the richest, ripest most overtly Romantic reading of all with playing of almost incredible lushness, smoothing over many of Schoenberg's dissonant interventions and handling the frequent changes of tempo and dynamics better than any rival, with the result that this version is truly not just the most post-Wagnerian, but the most Wagnerian outright.

More than in any other recordings, the strains of Tristan and Parsifal (and through that work Pelleas by Debussy who was heavily influenced by it) are evident in Part One, and in Part Two Gotterdammerung is present in a way I had never before realised, particularly in the huge choruses (which are superbly caught). Those who shy away from the name Schoenberg need have no fears-this is full blooded late Romanticism in full cry, with the passages that look to the future transmuted by Kegel into late reflections on the Romantic era. I love it!

The Soloists were always going to be where the contentious areas lie.
Eva-Marie Bundschuh is simply superb, giving us a Tove to match the best-even Voigt- and the same is true of Rosalinde Lang`s Wood Dove-under Kegel's direction she delivers the most powerful exposition of this crucial and moving number. Both female soloists are absolutely are rock steady in their delivery, and if they do not eclipse the very best, they match them. The Bauer and Klaus-Narr are excellent, and Gert Westphal, renowned Actor/Author/Director and theatrical icon in East Germany is at least as convincing in the speaking role as Brandauer, the highest praise I can award (I don't care for a woman in this role).

Inevitably, the most difficult comparison is with the tenor role, and here it is Manfred Jung the perennial second choice-he replaced Kollo in the 1976 Boulez/Chereau Ring after Kollo walked out, in 1983 he replaced Reiner Goldberg at the last minute (the Dress Rehearsal) when Solti again fell victim to his chosen Siegfried not learning the role in time , both in Bayreuth, and here he is once again second choice to Heppner-but he IS second only to him, for he is at least a match for Jerusalem and is infinitely better than the dreadful Thomas Moser and Stig Andersen among the most recent versions.
He is steady of tone throughout, highly inventive in expression, searing in his railing against God in the opening number of Part Two, and he reaches the notes above the stave by switching into falsetto -very good technique born of experience.

His voice does have the nasal quality perhaps more suited to a Loge than a Siegfried-but then so has pretty well every Wagner tenor since Windgassen. He is very, very good and I really like his performance.

I would not part with either the Levine or the Sinopoli-but this recording ranks alongside them.
What makes it the top recommendation is the cost-at the time of writing less than £10!
Not only does this make this the perfect introduction to this great work, it means that that there is no excuse for collectors not to add it to their collection!
What a bargain yet again from this label!
No libretto is included but it can be downloaded FOC from the Brilliant Classics site, and a full version of the saga, advisable to have as this work only portrays sporadic snapshots of the drama, can be viewed on many websites.
Totally and unreservedly recommended! 5 GLORIOUS Stars! Stewart Crowe.
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0 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pedestrian thanks to Ozawa, 2 Sep 2003
By 
Alexander Z. Damyanovich (Flesherton, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Schoenberg: Gurrelieder (Audio CD)
There is no question about Arnold Schönberg's gigantic oratorio "Gurrelieder"'s greatness as being on the very same rarefied plane as any of mankind's other masterpieces in music (e.g., the Beethoven 9th Symphony, the High Mass in b {natural} by JS Bach, the Wagner opera "Tristan und Isolde", or Stravínskiy's ballet "Le Sacre du Printemps,") and most probably no single conductor's reading of this super-score will totally satisfy everybody. Certainly the ingredients for a superb performance are present: a truly great orchestra, worthy choirs for the 3rd part, wonderful soloists. The one thing that is however missing in this recording is a truly involved conductor who can truly bare his heart on his sleeve like a Kegel or a Sinopoli - or a Stokowski. So many, many of the really great moments of passion, tenderness, pain, and outrage (e.g., the interlude prior to the Song of the Wood-Dove) go for nothing in the hands of Seiji Ozawa - they're just brushed aside and not truly developed in terms of the eloquence and lushness this huge piece calls for. Whatever Ozawa's greatness in Berlioz or whoever else, he almost feels mechanical in his approach - which is not what Schönberg, any more than Mahler, Wagner, Chaykóvskiy, Puccini, or Richard Strauss, would have had in mind. No, thanks to him (and it was his interpretation through which I first came to know this chef-d'oeuvre), I can't really recommend this recording almost at all.
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Schoenberg: Gurrelieder
Schoenberg: Gurrelieder by Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra with members of the Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester Leipzig (Audio CD - 2013)
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