BA Zimmermann: Die soldaten

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COMPOSERS: BA Zimmermann
ALBUM TITLE: BA Zimmermann
WORKS: Die soldaten
PERFORMER: Edith Gabry, Liane Synek, Anton de Ridder, Claudio Nicolai, Zoltan Kelemen; Gürzenich-Orchester Köln/Michael Gielen


The premiere of Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s only opera in Cologne 1965 was a watershed in the history of European music after World War II. In this single work, based upon Lenz’s brutally honest 18th-century play, Zimmermann not only broke free of the expressive straitjacket that total serialism had placed upon him and his contemporaries through the 1950s, but flouted the avant-garde’s prohibition on composing opera.For more than 20 years this recording of Die Soldaten, taken from the first run of performances, was the only available version of this hugely demanding work, but this is its first appearance on CD. It makes a fascinating historical document, and one’s admiration for the skill of the conductor, Michael Gielen, in co-ordinating the complex elements involved – a vast orchestra and chorus as well as simultaneous scenes, multiple film projections and pre-recorded tapes – remains boundless. But the stage sound seems raw-edged, and valiant though the principal singers are, they never suggest that negotiating Zimmermann’s vocal lines is anything other than a demanding test. The digital recording on Teldec, based on a Stuttgart production and conducted by Bernhard Kontarsky, is much more convincingly dramatic, and conveys the power of Zimmermann’s score more truthfully. Andrew Clements