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Schoenberg: Pelleas & Melisande; Wagner: Siegfried Idyll / Thielemann, Et Al

Release Date: 11/14/2000 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 469008   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Arnold SchoenbergRichard Wagner
Conductor:  Christian Thielemann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Deutsche Oper Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 5 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

"Do you have any problem with ecstasy? I don't," says Christian Thielemann in the CD booklet. Tough talk from this conductor, but guess what? He backs it up, in spades. Ecstasy surely is the operative principle behind Thielemann's reading of Schoenberg's Pelleas und Melisande, and it's not surprising that Scriabin's Poem of Ecstasy frequently comes to mind. While Schoenberg's opus doesn't skirt the edge of delirium the way Scriabin's torrid tone-poem does, Thielemann has his eye clearly on the erotic subtext of the music. You really don't need to know Maeterlinck's tome to get caught up in the swirling emotions evoked here; the music does that all by itself. Thielemann achieves this by an
Read more unprecedented clarity of texture, exposing all the work's myriad motifs and setting them in bold relief. Not even Boulez with the Chicago Symphony is so revealing. From the opening, with its web-like interweaving of voices, to the many full-bore tutti passages, virtually every important motivic strand is discernable. On the other hand, Thielemann doesn't sacrifice power for detail, generating terrific energy and volume for the doom-laden climaxes that lay along the musical landscape like mini-volcanoes. He also excels at fleshing out the work's unique orchestral textures, whether the passionately yearning string and horn interplay in the love scene, or the snarling muted brass chords in the coda, which here recall the sinister sounds of Bernard Herrmann's Hitchcock scores. It's interesting to note that Thielemann's style closely resembles Karajan's, whose grittily recorded performance made its impact by combining unrelenting fierceness with an unquenchable yearning. That recording remains a classic, but Thielemann's significantly better-sounding offering, with intensely focused, cohesive, yet virtuoso playing by the Berlin German Opera Orchestra is the version for the modern era.

The languid, gentle sounds of Wagner's Siegfried-Idyll make for a soothing contrast to what comes before, and though Thielemann certainly relaxes for this work, his fully sonorous and romantic approach makes much more of it than a mere birthday serenade. Again, beauty of sound is primary, but Thielemann's pacing sounds eminently "right", all the way through to the gorgeous coda, which lingers so tenderly that you wish it wouldn't end. Berlin's Jesus-Christus Kirche again proves a marvelous recording venue, resulting in clear, sumptuous, and powerfully dynamic sound. A live performance is still the ideal way to experience Pelleas, but this stunning recording is the next best thing. [11/27/2000]
--Victor Carr, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Pelleas und Melisande, Op. 5 by Arnold Schoenberg
Conductor:  Christian Thielemann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Deutsche Oper Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1902-1903; Vienna, Austria 
Siegfried Idyll by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Christian Thielemann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Deutsche Oper Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1870; Germany 

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