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Elektra Hybrid SACD - DSD

3.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Hybrid SACD - DSD, January 17, 2006
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (January 17, 2006)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Hybrid SACD - DSD
  • Label: Profil
  • ASIN: B000BM3MO8
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #435,177 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joseph Newsome on February 1, 2006
Format: Audio CD
First, it seems that this is being marketed as a 'live' recording drawn from concert performances. The limited technical information provided in the booklet which accompanies the set rather evasively notes the time and place of recording as merely '2004, Philharmonie Köln.' The comments from Maestro Bychkov reproduced in the booklet imply studio conditions, however. Whatever the circumstances of the recording of this set, I find the balance excellent and the overall sound to be of demonstration quality. There are occasional moments in which the soloists, all of them, are temporarily lost within the fabric of the sound, but that is not uncommon in recordings (to say nothing of staged performances) of this score. In short, I hope that no audiophiles such as myself will be put off from acquiring or listening to this set owing to the questionable provenance of the recording sessions.

The WDR Rundfunkchor and Sinfonieorchester Köln are on splendid form, playing and singing better than on Bychkov's recording of DAPHNE for Decca. Their performances on that set, tailored to the abilities and disabilities of its leading lady, are conscientious and quite capable without challenging the conventional wisdom that for musically superior playing of Strauss one must look to Dresden or Vienna (though, in my oft-expressed opinion, the Vienna forces have been in decline during the past decade). In ELEKTRA, however, Bychkov's Köln forces are altogether in their element, so to speak, and provide playing and singing worthy of comparison with the greatest of their rivals past and present. The great climaxes are explosive and hair-raising without being garish, and the final scene is both pulse-quickening and cathartic without descending to pageantry.
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Format: Audio CD
Bychkov did a good job while directing the Cologne Radio Orch. in garnering some plum opera recordings, including Renee Feling's Daphne on Decca and a concert reading of Lohengrin (no doubt budget considerations motivated Decca not to pay for a grander orchestra). Here Profil has recorded a good performance of Elektra that is notable for the conductor's decision to be the anti-Solti. In place of frantic energy, psychopathology, and relentless frisson, he "humanizes" the characters. This approach risks making a deliberately shocking opera into a tame one. I feel that this happens too often. The singing cast acts mildly anxious rather than torn apart by primal angst.

So it was distressing - inf not unbelievable - that the Gramophone chose this as the best Elektra on disc. the claim is absurd, especially in the face of birgit Nilsson's legendary portrayal for Solti, a feat of spectacular heroic singing that even she rarely equalled. If you want a well-sung elektra that stops short of Solti's electroshock treatment, there's Ozawa and Tate. But the lead reviewer has clearly outlined the deficits on this set. Polaski, a soprano with leather lungs but little artistry or personality, was in the later stages of her career. (Her earlier account under Barenboim gives us her best effort.) She is almost never moving, and when paired with a dutiful, doughty Orest, the Recognition Scene generates noise but no pathos. The great "Allein, weh, ganz allein" monologue in the first act barely stirs a hair.

In the supporting cast, the Chrysothemis of Anne Schwanewilms captures this very good Strauss soprano in a signature role, although she doesn't always rise above the voluptuous orchestration (few do).
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Format: Audio CD
Far from being a wildcard, this wonderfully conducted and sung Elektra by Bychkov and forces stands its ground as a first-rate recording of this highly inventive Strauss score.

For me the singing has all the involvement and sincerity I could ask for in an opera. Polaski may not have the sheer lung power of Nilsson for Solti but being something of a non-Nilsson fan (although I do like her at times) I can't say as I feel short-changed in the least.

Besides Bychkov the other set I own is Böhm's on DG. I'm much less enthusiastic about it than Bychkov's. The audio for Böhm has its problems as the orchestra is balanced far too backwardly in the mix and because of this the performance struggles to find adequate energy. The singing is fine but without proper orchestral support the sense of the piece coming together to create a true artistic and musical statement is missing for me. Strauss didn't take great care to integrate the orchestra and voices for nothing.

Which brings me to the Bychkov at hand. First off Profil's recording is marvelous. Although admittedly there is the slightest niggle that the voices could be a smidgen more forward at times - but just occasionally. But overall the musical presentation is honest and perfectly judged to create that all-important sense of occasion. The orchestra gives a strong showing (what depth!) and the singing is perfectly in sync with every move the orchestra makes. Overall this is a winner of an Elektra.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I utterly love this opera; in many ways, I think it is Strauss's best. It certainly has the drama (OK, schmaltz), but there are passages of great orchestral and vocal beauty, and even some passages that demonstrate humor, albeit sardonic. So I approached this recording with great anticipation, not only because of the opera itself, but also because I'd heard so much about Bychkov's "take no prisoners" conducting and Deborah Polaski's allegedly wonderful singing.

Bychkov's conducting is, in general, good - though it does not match, much less exceed, that of Bohm, Sinopoli, Solti, or even Jochum on an eery recording made in Hamburg in 1944(!) (I have yet to listen to the Ozawa recording), all of which are superb. There are times when it's quite dramatic, but he misses out on the humor (noted above), and even though the orchestra is never out of sync with the singers, it's as though the orchestra is playing totally independently of them.

Of course, that may be due to the quality of singing. I thought the Klytamnestra of Felicity Palmer was quite good, if a bit over the top (then again, if this role doesn't call for scenery chewing, what role does?), and I love the irony of someone named "Felicity" singing the role of such a horrid woman. That said, she's not as good as the amazing Jean Madeira on the Bohm recording or the excellent Regina Resnik on Solti's. There, however, the good news stops. I don't recall if I've ever heard Deborah Polaski before; she has quite a good voice, reminding me of Nina Stemme at some points - big, fluid and rich. However, she brings not one whit of drama or excitement to the role; it's as though she's doing a terrific first stab at the role or decided to read an instruction manual to the music.
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