Beethoven: Leonore Prohaska – incidental music; Die Weihe des Hauses – incidental music

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
WORKS: Leonore Prohaska – incidental music; Die Weihe des Hauses – incidental music
PERFORMER: Sylvia McNair (soprano), Bryn Terfel (baritone), Bruno Ganz, Karoline Eichhorn (narrator), Marie-Pierre Langlamet (harp), Sascha Reckert (glass harmonica); Berlin Radio Chorus, Berlin PO/Claudio Abbado
Friedrich Duncker’s 1815 drama Leonore Prohaska tells the story of a woman who dresses as a man in order to fight for a cause – but Beethoven’s incidental music is as far removed as can be imagined from his own opera on a similar subject, Fidelio. The four numbers include a Romance for soprano with harp accompaniment, and a Melodrama for speaker and glass harmonica. The men of the Berlin Radio Chorus are in fine form for the Chorus of Warriors in both these new recordings, though Abbado’s tempo is twice as fast as Rickenbacher’s. The other work common to both discs is a delightful chorus with soprano solo from the incidental music to The Consecration of the House. Beethoven disliked the crass classical imagery of Carl Meisl’s ‘occasional play’ in praise of Vienna, but the quality of his musical response shines through a performance as strong as Abbado’s. With the luxury of Sylvia McNair and Bryn Terfel as soloists, Abbado’s superbly recorded disc is well worth exploring. So too is Rickenbacher’s marginally less well-executed survey of several shorter choral works: the Goethe setting Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage is relatively well known, but the Opferlied (Sacrificial Song) – heard here in its two very different versions – and the charming Bundeslied (Song of Brotherhood) are much less familiar. Stephen Maddock