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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

on 13 December 2016
Since most reviewers agree on how wonderful this set is, I thought I'd simply comment on the reasons why this just about beats the Kubelik to the number one spot. If one compares orchestras, the Vienna Phil has to get the nod, good as Kubelik's is nonetheless. And the older recording is, I think, better than the more recent one, which seems to me to suffer from that tiresome CD steeliness too often. And the miking of the Kubelik doesn't do James King any favours: he's just too close sometimes, and I found myself wishing I could turn the volume down just when he's singing, particularly in Act 2. The sound-stage of the Kempe is more sympathetic, more engaging. Comparing singer for singer is really difficult here: Gottlob Frick is a tad preferable to Karl Ridderbusch, but I wouldn't want to insist on it: Jess Thomas is very fine - and for the reasons already given, gives a better listening experience overall. And much as I admire Gwyneth Jones, she simply can't match Christa Ludwig in the part. But it's in comparing the respective Friedrichs and Elsas that the contrasts between these five-star interpretations are most interesting. And I think that both Fischer-Dieskau and Elisabeth Grummer score highest on expressiveness, which always matters in Wagner, where engaging with the narrative is so important. For all the purity and ethereal beauty of Janowitz's tone, (she can make you cry here, as on almost everything else she does) Grummer succeeds where she doesn't, quite, in giving every word, every line, the full weight of Wagner's intentions for the character. You get the impression that this Elsa is, right from the start, apprehensive, expectant, fearful - and innocent. Repeated listenings to both sets has convinced me that though I wouldn't want to do without either of them, it'll be the Kempe that I'd have with me on my desert island. (Forget the Placido Domigo version by the way: he's just wrong for the part.) The Kubelik gets five stars, then. But this one gets six. Stunning.
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on 7 June 2014
In spite of the age of these recordings the rich and sumptuous threads of melody come through well. Soloists and orchestra are splendid and the sound quality is no doubt helped by the work being recorded in a studio rather than during a live performance. The soloists are particularly strong with such legendary names as Jess Thomas, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Christa Ludwig and Gottlob Frick. A small negative for me was that I prefer my Wagner heroines (Elsa) to sing with a little less vibrato. Overall, though, this must still be one of the best recordings of the opera.
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on 16 May 2013
This is a classic performance. Kempe was a great conductor who shaped the music wonderfully. Not being a glamour boy he didn't always work with the best orchestras but this is an example of what he achieved with an orchestra like the VPO. One could go into great detail but just to say that this is one of those occasions when everything was right - cast, orchestra and conductor. The recording shows its age a bit but certainly is very serviceable. A classic!
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on 19 December 2015
I dont have words to describe this-its so good
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on 9 January 2015
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on 4 April 2015
The implementation is superb and the sound quality is remarkably good (1964)
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 24 May 2012
Kempe did not record enough but this recording alone would be enough to preserve his reputation for posterity. He had a gift for maintaining an over-arching shape throughout an opera without allowing the big moments to become desiccated or smoothed over; hence he move effortlessly from the serene sheen of the VPO strings in the Prelude to the muttering menace of the Act II Prelude and preserve dramatic unity. The VPO still had a highly individual, distinctive sound in the early 60's, not least in the rasp of their woodwind and the dark roundness of their lower strings and they clearly relish playing under Kempe, who had by this time transferred his loyalties to them from Berlin.

EMI's casting was as good as could be made in the early 60's; especially striking is Christa Ludwig's Ortrud. Many great artists - Astrid Varnay, Margarete Klose, Gwyneth Jones - have made a triumph of this role but Ludwig, just at that point in her career when she had a brilliant top and extraordinary dark heft in the lower reaches of her mezzo-soprano. Furthermore, her chemistry with the just recently deceased Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's Friedrich is palpable: he craven, blustering and insecure, she steely and imperturbably malignant. I am a non-fan of D-F-D but concede that this is among his finest and most apt characterisations. In fact there is only one serious weakness in the cast: Otto Wiener's elderly-sounding, nasal Herald, so dry and unprepossessing of voice compared with, say, the stentorian Tom Krause for Sawallisch at Bayreuth. Elisabeth Grümmer is ideal: silvery, vulnerable, ethereal - perfect. Jess Thomas allows the occasional intrusive bleat to mar his line but is otherwise heroic and impassioned. Gottlob Frick is suitably imposing as Henry the Fowler.

There are other very recommendable recordings, live, under von Matacic, Sawallisch and Kubelik's studio version but this one holds its ranking as pre-eminent in that it achieves a grandeur and spiritual dimension beyond any other.
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on 6 December 2014
The cast on this Lohengrin set speaks for itself: Gottlob Frick, Jess Thomas, Elisabeth Grümmer, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Christa Ludwig are all near perfect for their parts. Not meaning to disregard any of the others, I am especially excited about Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's Telramund and Christa Ludwig's Ortrud. And who can resist the timbre of Gottlob Frick? Rudolf Kempe has me sitting on the edge of the chair from the first bar and the Vienna Philharmonic plays like their lives are at stake. The reading is not characterized by the transparency we (many) expect today, but it is wonderfully intense, and Kempe is a true Wagnerian, making both the great long lines and the details a feast for the ear.

Kempe's recording of Lohengrin was made with Wiener Philharmoniker in the newly restored Theater an der Wien. It took 55 sessions to complete. Rudolf Kempe's other outstanding studio recording of a Wagner opera, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1956), was made with Berliner Philharmoniker.
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on 26 February 2013
I must agree with Mr. Moore on this exemplary recording. I have it on LP, cassette, and CD. Now I have it again on CD in the new EMI box(36-CDs!)
WAGNER: The Great Operas. What a steal at 29pounds!!
I love this recording, and I DO love D F-D. In fact the whole cast is near perfect, tho I do agree that Mr. Weiner is a tad nasal. The real stars are Kempe and the tremendous Vienna Phil. WHAT A SOUND!! And now look at the price! This may indeed be a fifty + year-old recording, but it is still the best after all these years. Perhaps those really were the days of the great Wagnerian singers...?

Scott Harrison
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on 21 July 2014
This is a truly wonderful opera
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