Schoenberg/Wagner

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Schoenberg/Wagner
LABELS: Hungaroton
WORKS: Erwartung/Wesendonck Lieder; Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde
PERFORMER: Eva Marton; Budapest SO/John Carewe, János Kovács
CATALOGUE NO: HCD 31748
Schoenberg’s monodrama Erwartung remains an unsurpassed document of Expressionism; considering its inherent difficulty, it is surprising how often it has been recorded. Having probably murdered her lover, the protagonist gropes towards understanding and, in the indeterminate ending, stumbles into madness. The terrors of the dark wood, the moonlight, agonies of love and fear, are evoked in endlessly shifting orchestral images. The voice part, to put it mildly, is challenging; if your criteria include accuracy of pitch, this version is not recommended. Marton compresses the range towards the middle (the climactic top B is an A) and too often reaches for a note recently sung, rather than the adjacent note intended. But no one tunes Erwartung absolutely as written, and she is totally involved in her performance, while John Carewe’s alternately caressing and violent handling of the score is more intense than the dispassionate version by Boulez. Rattle is another rival, with Phyllis Bryn-Julson, but the benchmark remains a classic recording by Anja Silja under Christoph von Dohnányi, originally issued with Berg’s Wozzeck, which owes so much to Erwartung. In Wagner’s lovely Wesendonck songs, Marton spoils some ravishing singing by the inconsistent application of an intrusive vibrato; and while the singing of Isolde’s ‘Liebestod’ is impassioned, the voice is too forward for the beauties of the orchestral texture to be fully realised, and the vibrato becomes painful at the climaxes. Indeed, the most satisfactory performance is the Tristan Prelude, given a loving reading in the central European tradition. Julian Rushton

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