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Wagner: Lohengrin / Kempe, Grummer, Ludwig, Fischer-Dieskau

Wagner / Kempe / Thomas / Grummer / Wiener
Release Date: 04/20/2010 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 56465   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Richard WagnerUnspecified
Performer:  Christa LudwigDietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Conductor:  Rudolf Kempe
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 3 Hours 37 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

A glorious reading becomes all the more appealing in its newest incarnation.

One of the most classic Wagner sets of all time appears as part of EMI’s Home of Opera series at upper mid-price price with notes and libretto on a CD-ROM. Long recognised as a glorious reading it becomes all the more appealing in its newest incarnation.
 
The chief glory of the set is Kempe’s conducting. While he has long been considered one of the greatest Wagnerians, it is interesting that his legacy has recently been even better appreciated by his re-released Testament recordings of The Ring and Parsifal, both from Covent Garden. In this light it is all the more pleasurable to return to his
Read more stereo studio work. His concept of the piece is apparent from his visionary, rapt account of the prelude with the amazing strings of the Vienna Philharmonic. Kempe’s finest gift was as a storyteller and throughout this set there is a tangible sense of a world developing before your ears. Look no further than the prelude to Act 2 to hear this in motion, a spellbinding piece of slowly unfolding atmosphere. Its antithesis, the Act 3 prelude, explodes off the stave and makes the ensuing tragedy all the more poignant. All this would be worth little if it were not for the astonishing musicianship of the Vienna Philharmonic, caught here mid-way through the Decca Ring. They confirm themselves to be the finest Wagner orchestra of their time, fully inside the music and doing Kempe’s every bidding at just the right pace. Their distinctive sound is quite remarkable at that, particularly in the oboe section which sounds astonishingly sharp (“soured-cream-and-capers”, as Richard Osborne calls it in his booklet note): just listen to Elsa’s Act 1 entry to see what I mean. Comparing this sound with their Decca reading for Solti more than twenty years later, the VPO sounds like two entirely different orchestras: the 1986 reading may well be more conventionally beautiful, but we should always be glad that Kempe coaxed such a wonderfully distinctive sound out of them when he did.
 
Happily the set is complemented by one of the finest collections of Wagner singers ever assembled. Jess Thomas as the Swan Knight himself is ethereal and mystical in Act 1 but heroic for his exchanges with Telramund in Act 2. His grail narration is perhaps a little pale and Act 3 sounds one-dimensional at times. He is nowhere near as attention-grabbing as Peter Seiffert for Barenboim or, in his very different way, Domingo for Solti, but his commitment to the role is beyond question. Next to him Elisabeth Grümmer gives us the ideal Elsa, the purity and clean-ness of her voice giving us the very type of the damsel in distress. Her very first sigh, Mein armer Bruder, is laden with pathos and evokes our total sympathy for the character in just that one phrase. She is innocence embodied in Einsam in truben tagen though she gives way to girlish excitement at the thought of her hero’s arrival. These qualities mean that her betrayal of Lohengrin in Act 3 comes as all the more of a shock, and throughout her reading her voice is redolent with the class of a former era. Gottlob Frick was an exceptional choice for King Heinrich, radiating authority and humanity in a way that few of his successors have managed.
 
Finer still, however, are the darker characters. Christa Ludwig delivers a hair-raising Ortrud, the finest on disc. She chews up the drama in every scene in which she appears, both musically and in her remarkably vocal acting, giving us the epitome of malice with a smile on its face. Grümmer’s Elsa never stands a chance against her! Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau gets stuck into the role of Telramund unlike anyone I have ever heard: just listen to the relish with which he describes Gottfried’s disappearance in Act 1 or his cry of horror at his wife’s blasphemy. The first scene of Act 2 is absolutely riveting, both dramatically and musically, and Kempe whips up the orchestra into a frenzy to keep the tension wound tight. By the end of it Telramund is audibly a broken man, entirely in thrall to his wife. Magnificent.
 
The sound for this first stereo recording of the opera is good, if a little hissy, and the commitment of all performers helps to make this what is probably still the finest all round choice for the opera on disc. Kempe delivers the traditional cuts in the final act, but you’d have to be a purist of the worst kind to let this rule the set out of your estimation. Barenboim’s knight is more heroic, Solti’s sound is more satisfying and Bychkov’s Ortrud may come the closest to challenging Ludwig, but overall Kempe still leads the field more than forty years later. There is no reason to hesitate.  

-- Simon Thompson, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. Lohengrin by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Christa Ludwig (Voice), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Voice)
Conductor:  Rudolf Kempe
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1846-1847; Germany 
2. [Lohengrin] Synopsis & Libretto [CD-ROM track] by Unspecified

Sound Samples

Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Vorspiel (Orchester)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Hört! Grafen, Edle, Freie von Brabant! (Heerrufer/Chor/König Heinrich)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Dank, König, dir, daß du zu richten kamst! (Friedrich/Chor)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Welch' fürchterliche Klage sprichst du aus! (König/Friedrich/Heerrufer/Chor)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Seht hin! Sie naht, die hart Beklagte!
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Einsam in trüben Tagen (Chor/König/Elsa)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Freidrich, du ehrenwerter Mann (König/Friedrich/Chor/Elsa)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Des Ritters will ich wahren (Elsa/Chor/König)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Wer hier im Gotteskampf zu streiten kam (Heerrufer/Chor/Friedrich/Elsa)...Gegrüßt, du gottgesandter Held! (Chor)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Nun sei bedankt, mein lieber Schwan! (Lohengrin/Chor)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Heil, König Heinrich! (Lohengrin/König/Elsa)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Wenn ich im Kampfe für dich siege (Lohengrin/Elsa/Chor)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Nun hört! Euch, Volk und Edlen, mach'ich kund (Lohengrin/Chor/Friedrich/König)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Nun höret mich und achtet wohl (Heerrufer/Chor/Lohengrin/Friedrich)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Mein Herr und Gott, nun ruf' ich dich (König/Elsa/Lohengrin/Ortrud/Friedrich/Chor/Heerrufer)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Durch Gottes Sieg ist jetzt dein Leben mein (Lohengrin/Chor/König/Elsa/Ortrud/Friedrich)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): (Introduktion) (Orchester)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Erhebe dich, Genossin meiner Schmach! (Friedrich/Ortrud)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Was macht dich in so wilder Klage doch vergeh'n?
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Du wilde Seherin, wie willst du doch
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Der Rache Werk sei nun beschworen (Orturd/Friedrich)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Euch Lüften, die mein Klagen (Elsa/Ortrud/Friedrich)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Elsa!...Wer ruft? (Ortrud/Elsa)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Entweihte Götter! Helft jetzt meiner Rache! (Ortrud)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Ortrud, wo bist du?
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Du Ärmste kannst wohl nie ermessen (Elsa/Ortrud)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): So zieht das Unheil in dies Haus! (Friedrich)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): (Morgenlied) (Orchester)...In Früh'n versammelt uns der Ruf (Chor)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Des Königs Wort und Will' tu' ich euch kund (Heerrufer/Chor)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Nun hört, dem Lande will er uns entführen! (Vier Edle/Friedrich/Edelknaben)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): (Prozession) (Orchester)...Gesegnet soll sie schreiten (Chor)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Zurück, Elsa! Nicht länger will ich dulden (Ortrud/Chor/Elsa)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Heil! Heil dem König! (Chor/König/Elsa/Lohengrin)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): O König! Trugbetörte Fürsten! (Friedrich/König/Chor/Lohengrin)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Welch ein Geheimnis muß der Held bewahren? (Chor/König/Ortrud/Friedrich/Lohengrin/Elsa)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): Mein Held, entgegne kühn dem Ungetreuen! (König/Chor/Lohengrin/Friedrich/Elsa)
Lohengrin (2000 Digital Remaster): In deiner Hand, in deiner Treu' (Lohengrin/Elsa/Chor)

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Superb! July 20, 2013 By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews "Fabulous singing by a truly magnificent cast and sensational orchestral work by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Rudolf Kempe, make this 1960's Lohengrin a 'must have' for any serious Wagner fan. Jess Thomas delivers an unforgettable 'helden tenor' performance as the Grail Knight Lohengrin, juxtaposed perfectly by Elisabeth Grummer's wonderful portrayal as Elsa. Rounding out the cast are Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as Fredrich von Telramund, Christa Ludwig as Ortrud, and Gottlieb Frich as King Henry. Needless to say, the mere listing of this cast should give you some idea of how good this recording is. Of course, in Wagner's view, the orchestra's role must be powerful and creative, and here Rudolf Kempe hones the brilliant sound of the VPO to a golden glow. There are no weaknesses in this recording, and it absolutely stands the test of time as a supreme artistic achievement. Highest recommendations!" Report Abuse
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