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5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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  • Conductor: J. Levine
  • Composer: SCHÖNBERG
  • Audio CD (1 Jan. 2007)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Oehms
  • ASIN: B0002JZ2YS
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 411,941 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Ralph Moore TOP 50 REVIEWER on 7 May 2009
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The Santa Fe listener is quite right when he says that many people will not even be aware of this stupendous 2001 recording; when I reviewed those available a while back I certainly did not know of it and if I had, I would, as I do now, unhesitatingly endorse it as the first choice set, even above the Ozawa version. The Munich orchestra sounds like the greatest band in the world and Levine performs miracles with them, drawing out the sound monumentally without ever losing tension: the blazing, climactic last mega-chorus is a lulu. The two main soloists are the finest yet, but although Meier is very fine as the Wood-dove she does not eclipse Troyanos, Fassbänder and, most arresting of all, Janet Baker. The sound is amazingly full and as the recording was assembled from three consecutive live performances, it retains the frisson of a live event with very few coughs or distracting noises. Veteran retired tenor Ernst Haefliger takes the rôle of the Speaker - he recorded it twice that year, in this and then in the Craft recording - and gives us a highly stylised, vividly characterised, Sprechstimme account of the poem, but he sounds too old and quavery for my taste. The other smaller parts are fine, although I confess that I am always a little bored by both the Bauer and Klaus-Narr episodes; the glory of this piece lies in the long-breathed, emotionally highly wrought outpourings of Waldemar, Tove and the chorus, sung to perfection by this distinguished ensemble. Heppner sings both heroically and tenderly and is suitably distraught upon Tove's death, and it's worth hearing Voigt for her top B at the end of "Du sendest mir einen Liebesblick" (track 10) alone. My other little gripe is that despite giving us a fairly fat, thirty-page booklet, there is no libretto, and it is instead stuffed with padding like photos, biographies and a mini-history of the orchestra. But that doesn't matter; this is a great performance; buy it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x8c3a1c54) out of 5 stars 1 review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8c2d83f0) out of 5 stars A magnificent and overlooked achievement 2 Jan. 2012
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on
James Levine's tenure with the Munich Philharmonic, which ended only two years ago, was a lost period. His U.S. audience barely knew where he'd gone when he wasn't at the Met, the record companies ignored him, and nobody quite knew why he took up with a second-rate Bavarian orchestra when the world's greatest lay at his feat.

Fortunately, the musical achievement speaks for itself, now that the obscure Oehms label has released a 10-volume set of live performances from Levine's Munich years. This Gurrelieder is probably the cream of the crop, followed by a Mahler Ninth. But great Mahler Ninths are rather common while truly great Gurrelieders will always be rare--the difference being that the tenor soloist in Schoenberg's massive oratorio must sing as beautifully and heroically as Tristan. Only Ben Heppner, our reigning Tristan, fits the bill so gloriously on disc, closely followed by the golden-voiced Deborah Voigt as Tove. They are incomparable, and so is Levine's amazingly involving conducting. The Wood Dove of Waltraud Meier can't quite escape sounding a bit curdled, such is the idiosyncratic tone of her voice, but she is exemplary artistically.

Odds are that you've never even heard of this recording, and no one can honestly say that the Munich Phil., even under Levine, is a world-class orchestra. But they play their hearts out here, the chorus follows suit, and the impact of the whole performance is riveting. Too bad the various record magazines and classical websites missed the quality of this recording. Highly recommended.
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