Strauss: Elektra

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Strauss
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Elektra
PERFORMER: Hanna Schwarz, Alessandra Marc, Deborah Voigt, Siegfried Jerusalem, Samuel Ramey; Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna PO/Giuseppe Sinopoli
CATALOGUE NO: 453 429-2
Last year I welcomed Barenboim’s for Teldec as the best recent modern recording of Elektra, preferable, despite Marjana LipoviSek’s marvellous Klytemnestra, to Sawallisch’s authoritative if slightly safe account for EMI. This new version from Sinopoli is another strong contender, but be warned: like Barenboim, Sinopoli plays the opera with cuts, some more irritating than others, so those wanting the score complete will need the Sawallisch after all.

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The Sinopoli is ideal for those who want to concentrate on Strauss the musician. Indeed Sinopoli’s absolute grip on the music’s structure, his tempering of its volatility, his analytical delineation of its iridescent orchestral colours and scrupulous grading of its mind-blowing climaxes provide strong aural evidence for a unified view of Strauss’s oeuvre: that the late neo-classicism is already present, to a lesser degree of course, in this most expressionistic of all his works.

As a consequence, the recording balance favours the orchestra, the VPO on glorious form; just as well given that, apart from Deborah Voigt’s radiant Chrysothemis, the singing, whilst perfectly acceptable, is fairly routine. Alessandra Marc (Barenboim’s Chrysothemis) and Hanna Schwarz offer a reliably solid Elektra and Klytemnestra respectively, Ramey a sound Orestes and Jerusalem a fluent, unexaggerated Aegisthus.

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This then is symphonic Strauss at his most absorbing — a tone poem with obbligato voices – and, for all its faults, an excellent place to become acquainted with one of this century’s seminal scores. Antony Bye