Notes and Editorial Reviews
Iphigenie auf Tauris
Joseph Keilberth, cond; Hilde Zadek (
); Ilse Wallenstein (
); Claire Breske (
); Nicolai Gedda (
); Hermann Prey (
); Marcel Cordes (
); Herbert Beil (
); Cologne RSO & Ch
CAPRICCIO 5005, mono (2 CDs: 105:52)
Before starting this review, an apology. I cannot tell if this was a live broadcast or a performance taped at the Cologne studio
broadcast, which is not the same thing. I question this because, though this is in Capriccio’s series “The Cologne Broadcasts,” the booklet clearly states “
Köln, Funkhaus des WDR, Saal, 26.10.1956–30.10.1956,” which to me indicates actual sessions. Moreover, the performance sounds professionally engineered, complete with ambience and perfect microphone balance that will take your ears a while to accept as mono. Thus, I presume that this was indeed a transcription.
Those who insist on historically informed performances will dislike this recording, as it uses a full modern orchestra and really large operatic voices. Those who only like Gluck in the original language (in this case, French) will also be put off by it, as will those who dislike Hilde Zadek’s immense, knife-cutting, but unlovely soprano voice. The rest of you may indulge and prepare to be floored.
This is from-the-gut, no-holds-barred, openly emotional Gluck, which is just the way I like it. We’ve been fortunate over the years that this
opera has fared far better on discs than its unfortunate cousin,
Iphigenie en Aulide
. In addition to this performance, there is also a very fine radio broadcast featuring Maria Callas in her prime and a fine conductor, though the supporting cast is not as consistently good as this, as well as what is possibly Riccardo Muti’s greatest live recording for Sony (52 492) with the incredible singing of Carol Vaness even outstripping Callas in this role. The Muti recording is also in the original French and has a very strong cast, including baritones Thomas Allen and Giorgio Surian, tenor Gösta Winbergh, soprano Sylvie Brunet, and bass Angelo Veccia, so in a sense this performance, excellent as it is, must be deemed a second choice.
But oh, what a performance it is. If you are tense, in pain, overtired, or overworked, I recommend that you not listen to it, because these are precisely the feelings projected by the music and its performance. I enjoyed hearing Keilberth in something other than Wagner, and this
simply adds to my high estimation of his art. In the opening scene, the orchestra surges, it thrusts, it bites and cries in pain; this is the antithesis of “relaxing” classical music, but the very soul of Gluck. Zadek’s entrance will pin you to the wall. The problem is that, when she softens her tone later on, there is no softening of timbre, though the voice remains steady and almost frighteningly “open.” If you admired her teacher, Ria Ginster, you will admire her. Overall, I give her an A+ for interpretation and C+ for actual vocal quality, but this is Gluck, not Mozart or Verdi, and I can accept it. Marcel Cordes, as Thoas, was the baritone equivalent of Zadek. His voice, too, is powerful and dramatic but not beautiful. Gedda and Prey, of course, had two of the most beautiful voices of their time, and their singing here is imbued with both musicality and feeling. Surprise delights were Claire Breske as a Greek woman and bass Herbert Beil as a Scythian.
No, this is not a historically accurate performance, but if you played it for Marc Minkowski or Roger Norrington, I bet they’d have a smile on their faces. These performers and conductor get to the heart of the music and keep pushing the envelope throughout its nearly two hours. Recommended.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Works on This Recording
Iphigénie en Tauride by Christoph W. Gluck
Herbert Beil (Voice),
Marcel Cordes (Baritone),
Claire Breske (Voice),
Hermann Prey (Baritone),
Ilse Wallenstein (Soprano),
Hilde Zadek (Soprano),
Nicolai Gedda (Tenor)
Cologne Radio Chorus,
Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1778-1779; Vienna, Austria
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