Beethoven: Fidelio

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Fidelio
PERFORMER: Gabriele Schnaut, Josef Protschka, Uwe Heilmann, Hartmut Welker, Kurt Rydl, Ruth Ziesak, Tom Krause Vienna Staatsopernchor Konzertvereinigung, Vienna PO/Christoph von Dohnanyi
CATALOGUE NO: 436 627-2 DDD
The Florestan/Leonore marriage was never an equal partnership, and there’s little doubt who wears the trousers on this new recording. Gabriele Schnaut’s robust, piercing tone is not for the faint-hearted; devoid of warmth and subtlety, it sends the decibel needle scurrying into the red, leaving the heartstrings resolutely untugged. It’s hardly surprising that Florestan emerges as rather a wimp, with Josef Protschka singing affectingly but without the heroic metal of Jon Vickers or James King, for instance.

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The rest of the cast, too, seems overawed; the three major bass/baritone roles are well sung but none emerges with sharp definition. Kurt Rydl’s Rocco seems too sophisticated, Hartmut Welker’s Pizarro lacks vitriol and Tom Krause’s Fernando fails to convey authority. Ruth Ziesak and Uwe Heilmann make an attractive pair of young lovers.

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The chief merit of this set lies in the glorious playing of the VPO, vividly captured by the Decca engineers. But Christoph von Dohnanyi is merely an efficient conductor. For all its idiosyncrasies the Klemperer on EMI is still the Fidelia to go for. Antony Bye