Before hearing this disc I knew Schoeck primarily from his lyrical works (the wonderful, autumnal song cycle Elegie, for instance) and some rather diffuse, dark orchestral works. Well, the opera Penthesilea definitely gives you his dramatic side; this is a thunderous, post-romantic piece of expressionism, with the fin-de-siècle colors and gestures that one might recognize, perhaps, from Schreker - Penthesilea is even more dissonant, though the harshness and sharpness is deliberately softened by a mystic atmosphere. Heinrich von Kleist's drama is itself dark and sinister, and the atmosphere of Schoeck's opera is similarly grim and ominous, though the darkness and flickering shadows are ripped apart by thunder and lightning and some of the climaxes are earth-shattering.
The scoring is noteworthy as well (and highly effective) - two pianos, plenty of violas, cellos and double basses but only four violins, seven trumpets in total, a contra-bassoon but no regular bassoons, ten clarinets ... well, it should give you some idea about the sound world (and possibly an indication of why we don't hear it more often). But to make a long story short: this is a magnificent work of stunning power, storming (or sometimes slithering) from one striking effect to another without ever losing the dramatic tread or forward momentum. And it is just as convincing in its otherworldly and ominous depiction of pale moonlight at midnight as it is in the (terrifying) primal barbarism of the war scenes.
The performance is fortunately an (overall) great one. Helga Dernesch is dramatically convincing and generally superb, although I suppose those who are overly troubled by vibrato might be a bit hesitant. Theo Adam is dramatically convincing as well, and I can imagine few objections to his portrayal of Achilles. Overall, the cast is perhaps more notable precisely for dramatic conviction than for refinement, but that is as it should be in this work. The ORF chorus is excellent and the members of the ORF-Symphonieorchester play their hearts out under Gerd Albrecht's committed leadership. Recorded in 1982 the sound is good and well-balanced - a bit raw and bright at times, perhaps, but it certainly doesn't detract significantly from the experience. And the experience is an exhilarating one, if such a word can be used for a work as dark and gripping and powerful as this.
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Schoeck: Penthesilea - Complete Opera
- Package Dimensions : 5.55 x 4.97 x 0.54 inches; 2.51 Ounces
- Manufacturer : Orfeo
- Date First Available : December 11, 2006
- Label : Orfeo
- ASIN : B0000044WJ
- Number of discs : 1
- Best Sellers Rank: #945,604 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
- Customer Reviews:
4.7 out of 5
7 global ratings
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H.-J. v. B.
Unbedingte Kaufempfehlung für echte Opernliebhaber!Reviewed in Germany on November 4, 2019
Großartige Aufnahme eines grandiosen Werks des großen schweizerischen Komponisten - immer noch, oder jetzt in den anbrechenden Schwachsinnszeiten erst recht viel zu wenig gespielten und gehörten Komponisten!