Berg: Wozzeck

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Berg
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Wozzeck
PERFORMER: Carl Johan Falkman, Katarina Dalayman, Ulrik Qvale, Sten Wahlund; Stockholm Royal Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Leif Segerstam
CATALOGUE NO: 8.660076-77
Berg said that Wozzeck ‘needs singing as if it were Trovatore’. By this provocative comment he surely meant that singers should nurture the vocal lines in the best traditions of bel canto rather than fall into the default singing-acting style that often passes for dramatic interpretation in post-Romantic opera. Karl Böhm was the first to emphasise the Romantic warmth bubbling beneath the expressionist horrors. In more recent times, the recording made live at the Vienna State Opera by Claudio Abbado has become the benchmark, with a level of accuracy and refinement that would seem impossible with so complex a score under such conditions. This latest recording from the Royal Swedish Opera is also live, with a forward, high-impact sound on the orchestra and clearly audible words from the singers. Katarina Dalayman as Marie is less earthy than most, stressing the lyrical aspects of the role to good effect. But she has a less convincing way with Sprechstimme than Abbado’s Hildegard Behrens, especially in the Bible scene where Dalayman tends towards an unconvincing sing-song mode. Carl Johan Falkman is a sympathetic Wozzeck, bringing out the elements of nobility in the character. The Captain, Doctor and Drum Major are less exaggerated than we have become used to, and all the more disturbing for that. Leif Segerstam cuts a swathe through the dense polyphony and the lurid orchestration. This Naxos recording cannot compete with the beauty and subtlety of Abbado’s version, but the direct, less glossy approach of the newcomer goes right to the heart of the drama.

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