Schoenberg: Gurrelieder

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Schoenberg
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Gurrelieder
PERFORMER: Gary Lakes, Eva Marton, Florence Quivar, John Cheek, Jon Garrison, Hans HotterNew York Choral Artists, NYPO/ Zubin Mehta
CATALOGUE NO: S2K 48 077 DDD
Jacobsen’s text for Schoenberg’s massive Gurrelieder provoked music of profound intensity from the composer, and its wide range of expressive content and means demands a strong hand from any interpreter. Schoenberg’s crucial development between the work’s composition and its full orchestration reveals audible differences of orchestral style and technique. Lavishly rich Wagnerian textures give way to music which anticipates Klangfarbenmelodie.

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The present performance, with the New York Philharmonic under Mehta’s firm direction, is equally successful at achieving delicate and monumental effects. Generally slow, luxuriant tempi emphasise the music’s operatic tendencies. The singers are a mixed lot. Lakes (Waldemar) is effectively heroic but at times seems somewhat underpowered, while Marton (Tove) is warm and passionate, though her vibrato occasionally obtrudes. Quivar achieves an appropriately dark tone in the message of Tove’s death, and Garrison brings suitable humour to the Jester’s role. Cheek is well cast as the Peasant, and Hotter (Speaker) is as characterful here as in his performance with Chailly on Decca. The chorus is majestic as required.

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With sound that has excellent clarity in the warmly responsive ambience of the Avery Fisher Hall, this recording makes an attractive alternative to Chailly’s justly praised version. Nicholas Rast