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Customer Review

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wealth of riches, 27 Nov. 2011
This review is from: Alban Berg Collection (DG Collectors Edition) (Audio CD)
It's hard to imagine how virtually all the works of one of the 20th century's great composers could possibly fit onto eight CDs and yet be available for the extraordinarily modest price that this set sells for. So value for money here is not in question.
The performances, with one exception, are of a sensational quality. The La Salle quartet's version of the Lyric Suite is very fine - just briefly in the Largo Desolato I found myself wanting something a little more fluid in the dramatic outburst that is the culmination of the work, but really the playing is outstanding. I am absolutely seduced by Anne Sofie von Otter's sumptuous singing in the seven early lieder - she downsizes gorgeously for the piano version and then makes you just as happy in the 1928 orchestral version. I am lost for words in admiration for Juliane Banse's singing in the Altenberg lieder and especially in the Lulu suite, where she picks out the dizzying tessitura as though with a razor blade.
The conducting is broadly divided between Abbado and Boulez. Abbado adores these scores and gets some fabulous playing out of the Vienna Philharmonic. This is most notable in the Lulu Suite, where despite it being a live performance you get some immaculate playing (especially in the brass, but also throughout) that many studio efforts could have required multiple takes to achieve. Boulez contributes the original 1979 recording of the full Lulu with Cerha's completion - Teresa Stratas in truly memorable form in this historic recording.
I do feel one disappointment, however, which is the 1987 Wozzeck. DG doubtless disdained reissuing their 1965 Boehm recording, where Fischer-Dieskau and Fritz Wunderlich combined so utterly memorably, on grounds of its age, but I would never pass over those unique performances in favour of this mediocre alternative. The live recording is badly balanced and Abbado presses the pace to the extent that vocal lines often struggle to communicate key emotional issues.
But at this price I am sure you should be happy to brush over that - if you are really passionate about Wozzeck (which of course you should be) then find out either the Boehm or one of the other superior versions available. Likewise if you are set on the best Chamber Concerto recording, find the recent Boulez/Tetzlaff/Uchida version, but really there's not a lot wrong with the Barenboim/Zukerman pairing here (also under Boulez).
This is a very exceptional set, and will enable you to reach out to pieces you might not know such as the Clarinet and Piano pieces op 5 (which I haven't heard for a good 15 years now). I recommend it most highly.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 17 Jan 2013, 10:30:21 GMT
BTW I have just listened to the Boulez Lulu one more time ... it really is remarkable how he gets some of the ensemble singing to sound so fluent and natural - it's tempting to say it has an aura of Strauss or Wagner at such moments. If I have a modest concern, it's that the voices are a little too forward here - I can't make out all the orchestral detail that I'd like to. But really it is very good, although you need to know the work pretty well to get a lot out of a recorded version given how very visual the piece is when you experience it in the opera house.
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Location: Saffron Walden, England

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