Schoenberg: Gurrelieder, Verklarte Nacht Import
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Schoenberg's Gurrelieder is a massive cantata for five vocal soloists, narrator, chorus and large orchestra based on poems by the Danish novelist Jens Peter Jacobsen. The title refers to Gurre Castle in Denmark, which is the scene of Jacobsen's recounting of a medieval love-tragedy (and Danish national legend) revolving around the love of the Danish king Valdemar IV for his mistress Tove and her subsequent murder by the jealous Queen Helvig. This superb live recording featuring Zubin Mehta leading the Israel Philharmonic highlights Mehta's affinity for the repertoire of Mahler, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Schoenberg and the Second Viennese School. Gurrelieder holds a special place in the conductor's heart as it was the last work he conducted as he concluded his thirteen year tenure with the New York Philharmonic.
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Top Customer Reviews
Perhaps only one recording has no weaknesses-the Levine/Munich Philharmonic performance available on OEHMS. There are NO weaknesses.
Having said that, I love the live Sinopoli Dresden recording though I have to indulge in a sort of Zen practice of hearing Heppner instead of the inadequate Thomas Moser.
There are other fine recordings by Kubelik, Chailly, Abbado,Rattle, Salonen and Masur-what a pity that neither Karajan nor Solti recorded it-to name but a handful and this Helicon recording is not without its strengths.
Mehta's last performance with the NYPO as Director was of this work, and it was recorded and released by Sony- but in execrable sound which rules it out of contention.
There are no such problems with this recording, captured live in the Mann Auditorium in 2011, with the recorded sound particularly detailed and revealing much underlying detail which renders the work sounding more modern than ever before, and which is well balanced and very realistic.
A major attraction for me was the participation of Jennifer Wilson, whom I admired so much in the filmed Valencia Ring.
I'm a tad disappointed-she sings with firm tone, very heroic and touching by turns when required, but she lacks the sweetness of tone of Voigt in particular-a superb Brunnhilde but maybe not a Tove.
The tenor of Daniel Kirch is something of a revelation-a fine, resounding steady toned Waldemar sounding often like Jerusalem at his best. He is very fine indeed, though he tires a bit towards the end of his taxing part and his tone loses a little bloom-but I'm not complaining!
I've encountered Daniela Denschlag on stage in Vienna many times-last time as Annina-and her performance was what I expected: unsteady in quieter and lower passages, but soaring when volume and higher register is required.
Her Taube works well enough-she's better than Monica Groop for Salonen and von Otter for Rattle on his disappointing recording, but Meier and Larmore totally eclipse her. The remaining cast and the Israeli " Sprecher" are fine.
The chorus, made up of groups from Prague as well as Israel is a fine voiced accomplished entity, and their big numbers in the second part have the necessary impact.
Mehta conducts a fairly brisk unfussy reading, which is satisfying without being revelatory-but neither it is eccentric so that's a plus. It lacks the last touches of inspiration of particularly Levine and Sinopoli, but I have enjoyed it.
The playing of the Israel Philharmonic is not as accomplished as on other recordings from this source-the strings are not always together, and in the two final fate motiv chords after the Dove has stopped singing, the brass do not enter together, somewhat ruining the effect-but the general sonority is good and I don't want to overstate this.
One constant feature of Helicon recordings is audience participation-I'm a bit perplexed as to why considering Israel's balmy climate, audiences in the Mann Auditorium seem to be afflicted by constant colds, with coughing and spluttering a plenty (which they save for quiet moments). Perhaps it's the ill effects of air conditioning!
There is plenty to enjoy in this well recorded and generally well performed account of this great work, and there is even a filler in an earlier recording of Verlkarte Nacht, which is again good if not great.
The presentation is beautiful, with a fairly lavish colour booklet containing notes, biographies and the texts translated.
It doesn't scale the heights of the very finest recordings, but all the performances range from good to very fine and the recording is superb.
There are caveats, so only 4 stars-just, but if this particular recording appeals, it will satisfy more than it will disappoint. I'm glad to have it in my collection. Stewart Crowe