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Richard Strauss: Elektra ~ Mitropoulos


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Audio CD, January 25, 1999
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Editorial Reviews

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Strauss's shocker gets an appropriately shocking performance, live from the stage of the 1957 Salzburg Festival. Inge Borkh was a superb Straussian, and her Elektra is riveting, sung with febrile passion. Jean Madeira's Klytemnestra is in Borkh's league, and Lisa Della Casa's somewhat cool Chrysothemis isn't far behind. The men are right up there with them, but it's the conductor who stars. Dimitri Mitropoulos drives a volcanic performance, full of dramatic thrust and inevitability that captures the surging lyricism and yearning of the characters. He even brings out the black humor of Aegisthes's return home as few others have. The mono sound is good enough not to get in the way, but if you must have stereo, there's always the Solti. --Dan Davis

Disc: 1
1. Wo bleibt Elektra?
2. Allein! Weh ganz allein
3. Elektra
4. Ich kann nicht sitzen und ins Dunkel starren
5. Es geht ein Larm los
6. Was willst du? Seht doch, dort!
7. Ich will nichts horen!
8. Ich habe keine guten Nachte
9. Orest, Orest ist tot!
Disc: 2
1. Nun denn, allein!
2. Orest! Orest!
3. Ich habe ihm das Beil nicht geben konnen!
4. He, Lichter!
5. Ob ich nicht hore? Ob ich die Musik nicht hore?

Product Details

  • Performer: Alois Pernerstorfer, Anny Felbermayer, Audrey Gerber-Candy, Erich Majkut, Georg Littasy, et al.
  • Orchestra: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Conductor: Dimitri Mitropoulos
  • Composer: Richard [1] Strauss
  • Audio CD (January 25, 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Orfeo
  • ASIN: B0000044XQ
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #680,912 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

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See all 6 customer reviews
Kurt Böhme is a bit heavy as Orest, but manages his music well.
The Cultural Observer
Tearing the score to shreds if need be, Mitropoulos brings us closer to tragic catharsis than perhaps even the composer himself could have imagined.
Santa Fe Listener
The restoration here is excellent and one barely notices the age of the recording or the lack of stereo.
Ben Brouwer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Santa Fe Listener HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 26, 2007
Out of the available versions of Elektra released over the years, I chose four to compare. They include a stereo blockbuster from Solti on Decca and a harrowing live performance under Mitropoulos on Orfeo. If you don't want to read about the comparisons, these two can be recommended without reservation. Here are the relevant pluses and minuses for anyone who wants more information:

Mitropoulos 1957: Austrian Radio released the official tapes from the Salzburg Festival after decades of pirate recordings circulating in various degrees of awful sound. The tapes are mono, a bit boxy and dry, but quite serviceable. Mitropouls made a specialty of Elektra, and he finds more musical variety than any rival; even if you know the score very well, he offers surprises all along the way. Tearing the score to shreds if need be, Mitropoulos brings us closer to tragic catharsis than perhaps even the composer himself could have imagined. Inge Borkh follows suit with a portrayal that's almost too painful to bear; she owns the womanly, suffering side of the role and its tender dimensions, which Nilsson eliminates. Lisa della Casa sings with great beauty and charisma as Chrysothemis, and Jean Madeira makes for a nightmarish Klytemnestra. I wish the men had been stronger. Krut Boehme's cavernous bass, suitable for Fafner, sounds too old for Orestes to be Elektra's brother, and his portrayal is orotund, to be point of pomposity. Even so, this is an indispensable version, now in best sound.

Bohm 1960: Since I am a non-fa of Karl Bohm, it's a relief to discover that he conducts very well here in a studio Elektra fronm DG. He gets electrifying response from the Dresden Staatskapelle, and DG's close-up sound is still vivid.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By madamemusico on July 25, 2004
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I have been searching for a great recording of Strauss' Elektra for years, but eventually concluded that there was no such animal and so opted for the Seiji Ozawa recording with Hildegard Behrens (in pretty awful voice) simply because Ozawa's conducting was so intense, as was Behrens' vocal acting. But this recording has turned me around. Recorded live at Salzburg in the summer of 1957, it is possibly the ONLY recording that captures Inge Borkh's huge, diffuse, difficult-to-record soprano effectively. (Borkh's commercial release of the opera, conducted splendidly by Karl Bohm, was so bad that she had misgivings about approving it for release--her voice sounds thin and shrill in it.) Even more surprising are the highly-charged dramatic contributions of Lisa Della Casa, Kurt Bohme and even Max Lorenz, all riveting in their interpretations.

But the real cement that holds this performance together is the absolutely phenomenal conducting of the late Dmitri Mitropoulos. Bringing all the woodwinds forward to his right and conducting this immensely difficult score from memory, a la Toscanini, Mitropoulos gave here what was possibly the finest opera performance of his life. He not only infuses the Vienna Philharmonic with savage fire, but manages to bring out the lyrical qualities of the score as well--an accomplishment that Solti, for all his wonderful qualities, seemed unable to do. With such power and lyricism pouring out of the instruments, the orchestra effectively becomes another protagonist in the drama, just as it is in Salome and Daphne.

I would also like to commend the anonymous Austrian engineers who recorded this performance. If one is not listening too critically, one might be fooled into thinking that this is in stereo sound, though it is not...that's how good the audio quality is. Absolutely NOTHING is lost in either musical or dramatic impact; this is easily a first-choice recording if you want to experience Elektra in all its savage beauty.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By The Cultural Observer on January 5, 2009
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Dimitri Mitropoulos is every inch the legend that he was made up to be and perhaps more. While little of his recorded work is given to us in pristine sound (his premature death robbed us of the opportunity to hear a glorious Macbeth with Callas, on top of other things), he was every way a conductor with the finest ideas about the music and a penchant for drama that always reflected the emotional nuances of the works he conducted. He was a master of the most complex scores and could bring out the little things that even great conductors overlook. Elektra was one such mainstay in his repertoire, and of all the wonderful Elektras he did (do not discount the magnificent one he did with Astrid Varnay in New York), this is perhaps the best document of his work in the opera. All the dementia and feverish intensity of the score is captured in this recording and thankfully done so with the help of the Vienna Philharmonic. From the opening scene with the maids to Elektra's harrowing monologue to Chrysothemis' soliloquy, Elektra's intense confrontation with her mother, and the final, chilling scene with Orest is not so much set with a mood as it is spoken with instrumental voices. Other than Mitropoulos, only Karajan and Sawallisch were able to bring so much insanity and beauty to a score that is demented to begin with.

The cast is almost peerless. Inge Borkh, a Swiss dramatic soprano whose stage work is known for its intensity, sings one of the finest Elektras on record. I would place her Elektra beside those of Astrid Varnay and Gwyneth Jones. This is a star performance. She was a singer whose musicality was rather secure, but she is willing to bend things slightly for the sake of the drama. As a Straussian singer, few could touch her.
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