Enescu: Oedipe

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Enescu
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Enescu
WORKS: Oedipe
PERFORMER: Monte Pederson, Egils Silins, Davide Damiani, Michael Roider, Goran Simic, Peter Köves, Walter Fink, Marjana Lipov?ek, Ruxandra Donose; Vienna State Opera/Michael Gielen
CATALOGUE NO: 8.660163-64
Enescu’s only work for the lyric

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stage is one of the greatest of all

20th-century operas, and one of the most neglected. As befits the subject, its score mixes classical restraint with the composer’s rich and personal musical voice. The sound-world has a sort of enriched tonality that reflects the world in which it was written: Enescu began it as early as 1910, but did most of the work in the 1920s, premiering it at the Paris Opéra in 1936. Perhaps in a bid for that international acceptance the work has lacked, the Romanian composer set it to a French libretto which tells Oedipus’s story from birth to death.

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Naxos’s new issue is based on performances at the Vienna State Opera in 1997 and, good though they are, any new contender in this field has to face EMI’s landmark 1990 recording, one of the most important opera sets ever made. There, under the committed baton of Enescu’s great champion Lawrence Foster, José van Dam gives a towering performance of the title role and is surrounded by a glittering cast. If EMI’s Sphinx, Marjana Lipovsek, who now doubles that role with Jocaste, is in less fresh voice for Naxos, most of the newcomers are good, with Monte Pederson’s Oedipe being especially impressive. Michael Gielen conducts with total commitment. Still, and considering the lack of a full libretto (as supplied on EMI), this fine Naxos recording can only really be called second-best. John Allison