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Beethoven: Fidelio / Davis, Brewer, Mac Master, Et Al

Release Date: 02/13/2007 
Label:  Lso Live   Catalog #: 593   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Kristinn SigmundssonJohn MacMasterJuha UusitaloSally Matthews,   ... 
Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony OrchestraLondon Symphony Chorus
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.

This new entry into the Fidelio sweepstakes is played and sung just about perfectly. If the overture lacks the punch we prefer, it certainly does serve to introduce the opening Singspiel scenes, where we meet the lovely-voiced, innocent-but-not-soubrette Sally Matthews as Marzelline and the young-but-not-insubstantial Andrew Kennedy as Jaquino. In their arias and duets and in their parts in the "Mir ist so wunderbar" quartet they impress with fine diction, timing, and absolutely accurate singing. Vocally, they also act very well in the opera's finale, and throughout they deliver their dialogue with pizzazz. (The dialogue has been
Read more severely trimmed in this recording.)

Kristinn Sigmundsson's Rocco is well-sung but not memorable, and not as morally ambiguous as the character can be portrayed. We must only recall Gottlob Frick for Klemperer (EMI) to know what can be done with this role, but Sigmundsson still makes an impressive sound. Juha Uusitalo is a truly nasty sounding Pizarro and he never barks the vocal line.

With Christine Brewer, we have probably one of the finest Leonoras around (the other is Karita Mattila). Her large, warm voice is as striking at one end as the other, she blends beautifully in duets and ensembles, knocks out the high notes with ease, and sings the lyrical "Komm, Hoffnung..." section of her big aria with lovelier legato and more tenderness than I've ever encountered.

John Mac Master certainly does not make your heart bleed the way Vickers does; neither is he as lyrical as Gosta Winbergh. His opening "Gott" is one of the least dramatic on disc. Normally the tenor likes to make an impression with this particular G; here, it sounds sort of sad. But his voice has a fluidity that others lack and he never sounds strained in the closing moments of his big aria or in "Namenlöse freude".

Where's the rub? I find the conducting of Colin Davis to lack energy, drama, and urgency. It flows from one lyrical scene to another, with attention to orchestral detail (the separation of strings is particularly vivid), but there's nothing larger-than-life about it. If Leonora's aria does not bowl the listener over with its cry for hope, and the choruses that end the first act do not stir the soul, and the "Er sterbe" quartet doesn't make you jump in your seat, then something is wrong. The final jubilation is definitely a sign that happy days are here again, but since we haven't felt the tragedy that comes before it, it sounds like great music that could be disconnected from the opera. Tempos are slowish as times, but that's not the problem (see Klemperer); here, as mentioned above with regard to the overture, it's a matter of attack, or punch. Davis makes the opera seem matter-of-factly great, without message or dramatic conviction. I think Davis' point was to present Fidelio as a love story (after all, the subtitle is "conjugal love"), but to my ears it's only half the issue.

Sonics are excellent--clear and warm--but even Davis' humming is audible at times. This is a very good performance--but I'll stick with Klemperer or Furtwängler.

--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Fidelio, Op. 72 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Kristinn Sigmundsson (Bass), John MacMaster (Tenor), Juha Uusitalo (Bass Baritone),
Sally Matthews (Soprano), Andrew Tortise (Tenor), Andrew Kennedy (Tenor),
Daniel Borowski (Bass), Darren Jeffrey (Bass Baritone), Christine Brewer (Soprano)
Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  London Symphony Chorus
Period: Classical 
Written: 1804/1814; Vienna, Austria 
Notes: Composition written: Vienna, Austria (1804).
Composition revised: Vienna, Austria (1806).
Composition revised: Vienna, Austria (1814). 

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