If Richard Strauss
and Arrigo Boito do not necessarily
seem obvious bedfellows, there is
a logic to his disc. Both sequences
were recorded within a month of each
other, but one also wonders, given the
diabolic tale of Mefistofele,
whether the character Salome is seen
as some She-Devil equivalent? Certainly
Montserrat Caballé has a voice
that cuts like a knife and sends appropriate
shivers down the spine - mine, at least
- and the final scene is wonderfully
portrayed. The excerpt begins at the
line, 'Es ist kein Laut zu vernehmen'.
Caballé needed someone at the
helm that could match her genius, so
no surprises that Caballé + Bernstein
= Dynamite. Bernstein ensures there
is raw energy running through this scene,
with brass positively snarling at every
opportunity. More, the sensual moments
verge on the obscene – yet when there
is true Straussian melodic outflow (as
around 15'50), it sweeps the listener
away unapologetically. Riveting.
Quite a surprise then
that the 'Dance of the Seven Veils'
is surprisingly literal as it runs its
course. This mundane tendency, though,
is held within the arms of a real elementalism
(just try the beginning!). But there
are some problems here. Despite great
detail coming through, the recording
is uncomfortably and falsely close,
rather obviously multi-miked - and so
lacks full ambience.
Only Bernstein, surely,
could have encouraged an orchestra to
begin Cäcilie so radiantly
as this. And here is confirmation that
Caballé has an ideal Strauss
voice, luxurious yet with a slight edge.
Bernstein's web of sound that opens
Wiegenlied leads to a slightly
heavy of voice soloist entry (even though
Caballé has indeed lightened
her tone). Still, it comes across as
the Straussian fairy tale it is.
with a dramatic Ich liebe Dich.
The solo violin in Morgen is
possibly on the wiry side, but on the
credit side there is an affecting simplicity
to Caballé's interpretation.
The strings of Zueignung
are very accurate, but slightly lifeless.
Caballé, on the other hand, is
in miraculous form here – what a way
to end the group!
blazes onto the scene here. The recording
seems to constrict a little around 50
seconds in though. Nevertheless this
is intense stuff. Lenny clearly will
brook no criticism that this is second-rate
opera. His soloist, Nicolai Ghiaurov,
despatches 'Ave, signor' with aplomb,
but is rather too smooth ... and also
careful. Much better is the black 'Intermezzo
drammatico' and the 'Salmodia finale'
('Salve Regina!'), with its magnificent
chorus. Hugely impressive.
The inclusion of texts
would have been good, but at a purely
musical level this remains amongst the
cream of the Eloquence catalogue.