WORKS: Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40; Don Juan, Op. 20
PERFORMER: Dresden Staatskapelle/Giuseppe Sinopoli
CATALOGUE NO: 435 790 2 DDD
Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life) is not a modest work. It is plainly autobiographical and littered throughout with self-quotation. The hero, sublime, autocratic, and thoroughly heroic, survives the trials and tribulations thrown at him less by his wits than by a bombastic demeanour that brooks no interference.
Sinopoli’s account is well-paced, well-argued, but far from heroic. The critics in the second section are pedantic, but the hero’s reply tactful. The reappearance of the Don Juan theme towards the end seems merely an unremarkable curiosity. The silky and mellifluous sound quality is a trademark of DG, but here the string sound is almost synthetically sweet and the overall balance too artificial.
The approach to Don Juan is much more flexible and dynamic. It is a little rough around the edges and some of the contributions from the brass have a post-prandial torpor that belies the extravagant follies of this particular hero. But what is particularly worrying is the audibility of a number of edits. We are encouraged to turn a blind eye to the practice of assembling recordings in chunks, but we can only do this when the editors themselves preserve the illusion of unity by making their difficult task imperceptible. Christopher Lambton