Schoenberg: Gurrelieder

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Schoenberg
LABELS: Teldec
WORKS: Gurrelieder
PERFORMER: Thomas Moser, Kenneth Riegel (tenor), Deborah Voigt (soprano), Jennifer Larmore (mezzo-soprano), Bernd Weikl (baritone), Klaus Maria Brandauer (narrator); Dresden State Opera Chorus, Leipzig Radio Chorus, Prague Men’s Chorus, Dresden Staatskapelle/Giusepp
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-98424-2 DDD
Sinopoli’s conducting can be as frustrating as it can be illuminating. This new Gurrelieder, the first in a planned ‘Live from the Semper Opera, Dresden’ series of Second Viennese School works on Teldec, is prone to induce both responses. It is sumptuously recorded, the orchestral playing is lustrous in the extreme and new textural insights emerge from one minute to the next. But the downside to Sinopoli’s volatility is his obsessive highlighting of orchestral details and drawn-out tempi.

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Sinopoli’s largely American cast of singers does not duplicate any of the rival recordings. Moser, an ardent King Waldemar, is stretched by some of Sinopoli’s slow tempi, while Voigt, as Tove, for all her tonal refulgence (and a marvellous top B flat at the climax), is occasionally overwhelmed by the orchestra. Larmore is a marvellous, word-sensitive Wood Dove, Weikl a slightly gritty Peasant and Riegel a vivid Klaus the Fool; the Austrian actor Klaus Maria Brandauer ignores much of Schoenberg’s Sprechstimme pitch line.

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While I still hanker after Jessye Norman’s unsurpassed Tove on the flawed Ozawa recording (Philips), Chailly (Decca) and Abbado (DG) remain joint favourites in this work: both boast Siegfried Jerusalem as Waldemar and the two best Wood Doves in, respectively, Brigitte Fassbaender and Marjana Lipovsek. Matthew Rye