Wagner: Lohengrin

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Wagner
LABELS: Teldec
WORKS: Lohengrin
PERFORMER: Peter Seiffert, Emily Magee, Falk Struckmann, Deborah Polaski, René Pape, Roman Trekel; Chor der Deutschen Staatsoper Berlin, Berlin Staatskapelle/Daniel Barenboim
CATALOGUE NO: 3984-21484-2
Daniel Barenboim’s strong Wagnerian credentials justify yet another recording of Lohengrin. His conducting, brisk in the public scenes but always perceptive and organically conceived, certainly challenges the finest interpretations, among them Kempe’s classic reading of 1963 (EMI). Of the two most recent recordings, Abbado’s superb account on DG has Siegfried Jerusalem insightful but husky in the title role, whereas Colin Davis on RCA is less well conducted, with Ben Heppner as a honey-toned but often bland Swan Knight. Barenboim’s Peter Seiffert combines the best qualities of both: attractive in tone, intelligent in musicianship. Emily Magee, affecting as Elsa, is a real discovery, though she cannot quite match the range of expression of Abbado’s Cheryl Studer and her none-too-light tone is rather too similar to Deborah Polaski’s Ortrud, especially since the latter fails to wheedle and insinuate with the incisiveness of DG’s Waltraud Meier.

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Falk Struckmann and Roman Trekel are excellent as Telramund and the Herald, while René Pape, projecting both authority and humanity with his richly burnished tone, is the finest King Henry to date. Barenboim gives the score absolutely complete: rightly in the case of the traditional damaging cuts, more arguably in restoring the second part of the Grail Narration. He argues the latter case convincingly, but Wagner never rescinded his instruction to cut that passage, fearing an anti-climax, and on balance I believe he was right. Abbado and his Viennese forces still have the edge over Barenboim and his Berliners, but it’s a close-run thing.