WORKS: Die Gezeichneten
PERFORMER: Kenneth Riegel, Theo Adam, Janis Martin, Hermann Becht, Peter Meven; Vienna ORF Choir, Arnold Schoenberg Choir, Vienna RSO/Gerd Albrecht
CATALOGUE NO: C 584 022 I
Die Gezeichneten (The Branded or The Marked Ones) is among the most sumptuously scored and uninhibited of Schreker’s works: its colours and textures intoxicated the first audiences and still dazzle today. Best summed up as a blend of post-Salome luxuriance and exoticism with a hothouse admixture of Scriabin, Szymanowski, Korngold and Puccini, it was Schreker’s fourth and arguably most powerful opera and enjoyed immediate success when it first appeared in 1918. The present Austrian Radio relay from the 1984 Salzburg Festival has a lot going for it, with commanding accounts of Alviano by Kenneth Riegel and Duke Adorno by Theo Adam, and a fine sense of dramatic movement and sensitive orchestral playing under Gerd Albrecht.
The recording has a natural perspective and is well balanced. At the same time, however, it compares unfavourably with the more recent Decca set made in Berlin under Lothar Zagrosek in many important respects. First, it is cut, as for that matter was Edo de Waart’s Marco Polo set: the Decca runs to 170 minutes – almost half an hour longer. Secondly, the Decca sound has much greater detail, transparency and definition. Thirdly, it offers much better documentation: the notes and libretto are given in French, English and Italian translation while the present issue gives us only the German original with a short English summary of the action. Lastly, while there is some good singing here, the Decca is consistently fine, with hardly a weak link in the cast. True, this newcomer is accommodated on two as opposed to three CDs, but despite its strengths and the expert direction of Gerd Albrecht, the Berlin set really is worth the extra outlay. Robert Layton