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Berg: Wozzeck (Sung In English)

Berg: Wozzeck (Sung In English)

1 Apr 2003
4.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Customer Reviews

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Format: Audio CD
Unless you are a speaker of German there is no way you can get the full impact of Berg's wrenchingly dramatic 'Wozzeck' in a German-language recording. Even following along with libretto in hand is a diluted experience. This 2-CD recording, part of the Chandos's laudable 'Opera in English' series, underwritten by the equally laudable Moores Foundation who have now underwritten more than 30 English-language opera recordings including the wonderful 'English Ring' conducted by Reginald Goodall, meets the need for a recording that has an immediate, visceral impact for opera-lovers who don't understand German.
I have loved 'Wozzeck' ever since the Mitropoulos recording made in the early 1950s with Mack Harrell and Eileen Farrell and have owned recordings conducted by Abbado, von Dohnanyi and Böhm. I had never heard it before in English and I have to admit that in this recording I heard and understood things I simply had missed before [and my German is passable]. The diction in this recording is clear and understandable, but Chandos also includes an English libretto to help you understand any of the occasional misheard words.
The rising young English conductor, Paul Daniel, does a remarkable job; he keeps things moving along but also tightens the tension appropriately as we move towards the shattering final scenes. The Philharmonia play the complex score brilliantly. The singers--Andrew Shore as Wozzeck, Josephine Barstow as Marie, Alan Woodrow as the Drum Major, Peter Bronder as Andres, Stuart Kyle as the Doctor, Jean Rigby as Margret--are first-rate and generally the equals of singers on earlier recordings. I had worried that Barstow, who is no longer young, wouldn't sound right as Marie, but indeed she does. For instance, the lullaby ['What will you do now, poor lamb?
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Great translation, works very well on CD and an altogether convincing performance. The only reason for withholding a star from a possible 5, is that while Andrew Shore is great in the more lyrical passage, he does lack a certain edge in the more brutal anguished scenes.

The Orchestra and conductor are stunning

This is an excellent CD set which I will come back to over the years.
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By M. Joyce TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 19 May 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I studied Georg Büchner's play at university and it made a great impact on me; in particular, I found it quite astonishing that it was written in the early years of the nineteenth century. In truth, I'd always been a bit scared of the opera, even though I knew that its libretto was virtually a verbatim transcription of the play text.

Well, after all these years, I've eventually got round to listening to it and although it is a fragmentary piece and not an easy listen, there are many beautiful musical moments and the vocal characterization is quite striking.
There is substantial use of Sprechstimme in the piece and from what I gather, many singers pay scant regard to the vocal line and the actual notes! I'm not an expert, but my impression is that this is not the case here and even the grotesque roles of the Captain and the Doctor are musically sung.

All of the singers are superb and it is evident that most of them have actually sung their roles on stage, many in an Opera North production conducted by the estimable Paul Daniel, who oversees matters here. The title role is taken by Andrew Shore. Shore is one of the great buffo basses of his generation and on the evidence of this recording, it is a shame that he has not undertaken more "serious" roles; his Wozzeck is both harrowing and beautifully sung. I was a little apprehensive that Josephine Barstow recorded the role of Marie so late in her career (the recording was made in 2002), but she sounds appropriately young and fresh and she is, of course, one of the greatest singing actresses of recent vintage. The supporting cast is superb. Stuart Kale and Clive Bayley sing and act brilliantly as the Captain and Doctor, while Peter Bronder is a lyrical Andres.
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By DAVID BRYSON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 5 Feb. 2008
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
For collectors who have no problem with Wozzeck, music lovers for whom the status and quality of the work are established rather than questionable, this set ought in my own opinion to be a very safe recommendation. Does anyone have a problem with its being sung in English? Part of Wagner's prospectus for his new music-dramas, and an important reason for the type of vocal lines he used, was precisely to enable them to be sung in the vernacular wherever they were performed. Demands to hear opera in its original language struck him as snobbish and irrational, and one can sympathise. However the traditional type of opera with arias made translations problematical - it would never be easy to get audiences to accept much-loved favourites like Mozart's Voi che sapete or Verdi's Di quella pira in some sort of translation, and it was not unreasonable either to counter Wagner's position by arguing that if we would not tolerate the Requiems of these masters in anything but Latin why should we be more accommodating in the case of opera? To attain the emancipation that Wagner wanted, arias had to go, and Berg was not exactly likely to bring them back. That really settles the issue so far as I and Berg are concerned: I cannot even imagine why I would want to struggle with the work in German when I can hear it without effort in my own native tongue.

The performance, the recording and the production in general are admirable. The cast is a large one but I detected no weaknesses. Few of the names were familiar to me, but in the cases where their dates of birth are given I saw that the artists were the age of my own children, so that will be the reason for that.
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