WORKS: Enoch Arden
PERFORMER: Jon Vickers (narrator), Marc-André Hamelin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: VAIA 1179-2
Though he apparently once referred to it as a worthless piece, Strauss toured Germany with the noted actor/director Ernst von Possart in performances of Enoch Arden to great acclaim in 1897. The work is no youthful indiscretion: by then its creator was the famous composer of Don Juan, Till Eulenspiegel, Also sprach Zarathustra and Don Quixote.
Couched in the unusual form of a melodrama – in which music is combined with the spoken word – it takes as its basis Tennyson’s lengthy narrative poem and adds to it a full-blown piano accompaniment, conceived at times almost on an orchestral scale. Sections in which music and speech combine are interspersed with others in which the text is recited on its own.
This live performance benefits from the extraordinary dramatic presence of Canadian tenor Jon Vickers, whose intensity of emotion in his stage performances is recalled here in his remarkable powers of declamation. The range and depth of human experience encompassed in his reading are extraordinary. Marc-André Hamelin attacks the piano part with the authentic Romantic sweep, though his tone is not flattered by the boxy acoustic. George Hall