Notes and Editorial Reviews
This was an easy call. There’s really only one other contender for reference recording in Gurrelieder: Chailly’s on Decca. That recording has many beautiful things, but the early digital sonics, despite abundant inner detail, can sound glaringly lit especially on high-end systems. This live performance, on the contrary, is warmly engineered and more naturally balanced. It also has far and away the best singers, beginning with Jessye Norman as Tove, and including the always insightful Tatiana Troyanos in the song of the Wood-dove. As Waldemar, MET stalwart James McCracken brings a real Heldentenor sound quality to the performance. In his day, he tended to be taken for granted, but given the current dearth of heroic tenors he could write his
own ticket in today’s marketplace. He sings very well indeed: listen to how he holds his own against the orchestra in his “Horse” aria.
That same example highlights the other advantage this performance has over all others: its sheer excitement. Ozawa’s tempos tend to be fleet, all to the good, and he has the Boston Symphony playing splendidly. In Part One he prevents the succession of love songs from turning into a long, dull, decrescendo of musical intensity, while in the wild hunt of Waldemar’s men in Part Three he’s pretty much unbeatably energetic. It’s also worth mentioning the excellent and, somehow, believable work of the late Werner Klemperer as the narrator introducing the final, splendiferous chorus. Speaking of which, the massed voices sound imposing without ever turning into a giant, muddy screamfest, particularly at the very end. I certainly wouldn’t want to be without Chailly’s recording: it’s different enough to justify purchase in its own right, but if you’re only a casual Gurreliederian, and I suspect that most of us are, then you really only need this version, at least to start.
By the way, this particular reissue (in the “Originals” series) comes with texts and translations. The performance is also available (or was) as a Philips Duo lacking the full booklet presentation, but also containing decent performances of Schoenberg’s two Chamber Symphonies from Eliahu Inbal. There has also been at least one additional two-disc reissue from back when Philips still existed, and the performance also has been stuffed into one of DG’s big Ozawa boxes. Depending how much you care about the text, much of which is nonsense, you can make the choice that suits you best if you can still find some or all of these various configurations.
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Gurrelieder by Arnold Schoenberg
Kim Scown (Tenor),
Jessye Norman (Soprano),
David Arnold (Baritone),
Tatiana Troyanos (Mezzo Soprano),
Werner Klemperer (Spoken Vocals),
James McCracken (Tenor)
Boston Symphony Orchestra,
Tanglewood Festival Chorus
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1900-1911; Vienna, Austria
Date of Recording: 04/1979
Venue: Symphony Hall, Boston, Massachusetts
Length: 102 Minutes 42 Secs.
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