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Strauss: Salome (Great Recordings of the Century) Original recording remastered

4.5 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Original recording remastered, September 21, 1999
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Herbert von Karajan's mastery of the opulent idiom of Richard Strauss is everywhere apparent in this recording of Salome, made in 1977-78 in conjunction with the first-ever Salzburg Festival production of the opera, conducted (as well as directed) by the Salzburg-born maestro. Never has the shimmering, feverish intensity of Strauss's colorful scoring been more tellingly captured on disc, although Karajan's fastidious direction and iron grip on the music are only a part of the reason: a good deal of credit belongs to the Vienna Philharmonic, which was in top form on this outing. As Salome, German soprano Hildegard Behrens makes a strong impression. This was the production that brought her into the international spotlight, where she would remain for a dozen years or so, eventually singing Brünnhilde at Bayreuth and the Met. Although a newcomer, she was a mature artist--40 years old--with a potent instrument. While her approach might lack the hair-raising intensity that Ljuba Welitsch brought to the part (to name another Karajan collaborator, and one of the century's greatest Salomes), it fit Karajan's conception of the role like a glove. José van Dam makes a regal Jochanaan, and Karl-Walter Böhm gives a smarmily spot-on characterization as Herodes. The ensemble work is superb, once again reflecting Karajan's scrupulous attention to detail. The recording, made in the Sofiensaal and engineered by a Decca team that was headed by James Lock, is splendidly balanced and imposing in its impact. --Ted Libbey
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Product Details

  • Performer: Agnes Baltsa, Hildegard Behrens, José van Dam, Karl-Walter Böhm
  • Orchestra: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Conductor: Herbert von Karajan
  • Composer: Richard Strauss
  • Audio CD (September 21, 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Original recording remastered
  • Label: EMI Classics
  • ASIN: B00000K4GF
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #181,691 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on September 13, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Behrens is not my favorite singer. Karajan's later recording also do not appeal to me in general. For instance, his Fidelio with Dernesch and Vickers was marred by weird sound perspectives and constant manipulation of balance which is very annoying. As a result, I resisted buying this set for a while until now. What I heard amazed me beyond imagination!! It's not the normal "bad Karajan" like his Fidelio. It's not the normal below-the-best standard singing from Hildegard Behrens. This is a sinply great recording, worthy of being in the Great Recordings of the Century series. This is definitely Hildegard Behrens' best opera recording, done when she was at her absolute prime. Here, her beauty of tone and line is simply incredible!! Karajan himself is inspired!! The orchestral playing is simply superb. I simply love the final scene when Salome is singing and the little bells tinkle as she caresses Jochanaan's head!! (??? I'm not sure but they sure sound like little bells or a triangle) The tinkling bells! They are sheer magic! It gives the final scene a "little girl" feel. Like an "innocent" 16-year old girl playing with her "toy" but this "toy" is Jochanaan's head!! After listening to the bells in this recording, I'm sure Richard Strauss meant to give the final scene a "nursery school" kind of atmosphere to emphasize the fact that Salome is an adoloscent teenage girl who is just "coming of age", who is just beginning to discover the world. A girl coming out of "innocence". And Hildegard Behrens sounds just like a 16 year old girl. Her voice is silvery, radiant and cuts across the orchestra like a razor sharp blade. And oh! The beauty of her voice!!Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
Generally, late 1970's and 1980's Karajan studio recordings, to my liking at least, must be approached with care and even mistrust. His immense talent not being the subject of discussion, yet as he aged he tended to give a lot more attention to how things were played, how they actually sounded, than to what was being played, somewhat along the lines of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf or Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, who also tended to give so much attention to these matters as to sound affected and artificial. Those special qualities (see following paragraph) that so much distinguished his recordings with the Philhamonia Orchestra made during the 1950's for EMI, or his early '60's discs made for Decca, EMI and DG with the Vienna and Berlin orchestras gradually faded along the 1970's and the 1980's.

But not in this recording. This is easily the best conducted Salome in recorded history, and that so in a work that has been particularly lucky in this respect. What we have here is a return in spirit to "das wunder Karajan" of 30 years earlier, to what lay behind the acronym of "Toscawängler" coined by some London critics of the early 1950's when Karajan righfully dazzled audiences all over post-war Europe once the Allied authorities in occupied Germany and Austria allowed him to return to work. That the 70-year old conductor was able to return to his form upon which much of his fame was built is short of miraculous, in a work that so much exhudes the sexual reckoning of youth. Tension along the two hour-long performance never ceases and by the time the final orchestral crashes aurally picture Salome being literally crushed under Herod's soldiers's shields, you breathe in relief. Wow! is most likely what you may be able to utter ...
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Format: Audio CD
After an apparent hiatus from the catalogues, Herbert von Karajan's 1977 recording of "Salome" is back and better than before. The stuffy sound quality of the 1987 remastering has been eliminated, replenishing the recording's essential beauty (and at a more reasonable price). The libretto booklet also includes background on the Salome legend, as well as information about the recording itself.
Hildegard Behrens, relatively unknown at the time of the recording, sings the title role with appropriate "youthfulness" and fresh sensuality, like Catherine Malfitano, Teresa Stratas, and Inga Nielsen. Salome is not to be sung like Brunnhilde, nor as a caricatured "madwoman," as certain others have sung it. She is an adolescent dealing with her sexuality on her own terms (Yeah, baby! Yeah!), or perhaps she is trying to fulfill her spiritual needs (A popular interpretation in our more spiritual times.), or perhaps she seeks a sexual and spiritual union with Jochanaan (The best of all possible worlds.)? Is Salome the perfect Tantrist (Tantris? Good God!)?
As for the orchestra, Karajan and the Wiener Philharmoniker successfully balance the savagery and sensuality of the score, and therefore of Salome's psyche. They unleash the savagery at appropriate times, with thunderous timpani and horns during Jochanaan's ascent from and descent back into the cistern, and the opening of Salome's final scene with Jochanaan's head. Then there are the moments of sensual langour and tenderness as she dreamily rhapsodizes about Jochanaan. And then her cosmic orgasm, as she transcends Herod's court, Jochanaan's head, the world, the moon, the stars, the universe.
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