Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Fidelio. Leonore Overture No. 3.
Christa Ludwig (mezzo) Leonore;
Jon Vickers (tenor) Florestan; Walter Berry (bass) Don Pizarro; Gottlob Frick
(bass) Rocco; Ingeborg Hallstein (soprano) Marzelline; Gerhard Unger (tenor)
Jaquino; Franz Crass (bass) Don Fernando; Kurt Wehofschitz (tenor) First
Prisoner; Raymond Wolansky (baritone) Second Prisoner; Philharmonia Chorus
EMI Great Recordings of
the Century CMS5 67364-2 [two discs] [142.52]
It is the easiest thing in the World to argue for hours about what constitutes
a truly 'great' recording or a truly 'great' performance. Perhaps it is that
if, when one listens, the experience is so convincing that the piece could
not be imagined in any other way. Whatever it is, there is no doubt that
the epithet 'great' is one of the most misused in the English language.
One or two of the recordings included in EMI's Great Recordings of the
Century series may be contentious choices, but this one seems
to shout out for inclusion. Klemperer's studio Fidelio has been accorded
classic status since it was issued in the early sixties, and listening to
this newest incarnation it is easy to hear why. The pacing is inevitable
and, to use an overused term for all things Klempererisch, monumental.
Everything in the score, from the Overture (already in Klemperer's hands
pregnant with the drama about to unfold, no mere opera buffa scene-setter)
to Leonore's unveiling and the final uplifting chorus of triumph feels 'right'.
The bonus here is that the recording itself emerges better than ever: details
that previously went unnoticed become clear and the sonic stage is clearly
There are some great individual performances here, too: and, it must be noted,
a not-so-great one in the form of Ingeborg Hallstein's somewhat tremulous
Marzelline. This fault is not too disturbing in the opening duet with Jacquino,
but becomes more so in O War ich schon mit dir vereint. Gottlob Frick's
Rocco moves from the characterful Hat man nicht auch Gold beineben
of Act One to a person of real depth. Franz Crass has the right weight to
make the ethical pronouncements of the second act appropriately telling.
The two main protagonists, Ludwig and Vickers, are the real stars: both are
every inch the equal of Klemperer's interpretation and Beethoven's demands.
Ludwig is inspirational in her Abschelicher! (the horn quartet playing
as one here) and Vickers' aria which opens the second act finds him on top
form. His initial cry of Gott! Welch' Dunkel hier! is heart-rending,
his hallucination of Leonore as an angel completely convincing. The final
scene is ideally paced by Klemperer so as to appear a truly fitting climax
to the opera. The soloists pick up the elevated mood and deliver a quintet
at O Gott! Welch' ein Augenblick! which is an oasis of peace and hope.
EMI append Klemperer's Leonore Overture No. 3, a performance full
of dramatic fire. If wished, the listener can programme the CD player to
play Leonore No. 3 between the two scenes of Act 2.
Richard Osborne's accompanying notes are as informed as one would expect
from this source.
If you haven't already heard this performance, this set is an essential purchase.
See latest release in this