Aureole etc.




Nimbus on-line




If it’s the Czech works you’re after, do not hesitate

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


CD REVIEW

Some items
to consider

 


Enjoy the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra wherever you are. App available for iOS and Android


Tudor 7188


Vaughan Williams Symphony 3 etc.


Lyrita New Recording


Lyrita Premiere Recordings

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage


Decca Phase 4 - 40CDs


Judith Bailey, George Lloyd


BAX Orchestral pieces


CASKEN Violin Concerto

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

 

 

 


Buy through MusicWeb for £9/10/11.50 postage paid.

 

Musicweb Purchase button

 

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770–1827)
Fidelio - opera in two acts (1804-5)
Leonore - Gabriele Schnaut (soprano); Marzelline - Ruth Ziesak (soprano); Florestan - Josef Protschka (tenor); Jaquino - Uwe Heilmann (tenor); Don Fernando - Tom Krause (baritone); Don Pizarro - Hartmut Welker (bass-baritone); Rocco - Kurt Rydl (bass); Prisoner - Falk Struckmann (bass-baritone)
Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor
Wiener Philharmoniker/Christoph von Dohnányi
rec. 1991, Konzerthaus, Vienna. DDD
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 93921 [70.20 + 47.06]

Experience Classicsonline

 

Although this is the 1814 version, it is important to recall that Beethoven wrote the original in 1804 with all the political upheaval that was then swirling around. The tumbrils of France cast a long shadow over Europe, with the Reign of Terror and its guillotine or incarceration for political deeds or words. Couple that with Beethoven’s increasing isolation, caused by his diminishing hearing, and his determination to overcome it. Thus, it is not surprising that this supposedly true story, upon which a play had been based, should have such appeal for him. A husband’s incarceration below ground for an unspecified offence coupled with the fearless determination of his wife to release him mirror Beethoven’s view of this aural plight.

This recording is one of a collection of fifteen titles launched by Brilliant Classics with another fifteen scheduled for release in December 2009. Their web-site tells us that in the first batch “Many of (the) releases are award-winners and will be instantly recognisable to consumers as classics”. These releases include Callas/Tosca, Schwarzkopf/Marschallin and Flagstad/Isolde. The website also gives brief background to the writing of this opera whilst the booklet accompanying the CD gives a synopsis and a list of track numbers. “What, no libretto?” I hear you say. Not in the booklet, but there it is on their easily navigable web-site.

If recordings are to be referenced by individual names - as others are referred to above - then I suspect that with Fidelio it is going to be the conductor who is referred to more than any soloist. I say that because in my own collection the recording that I tend to reach for is the Klemperer of 1962, digitally re-mastered in 1994 (EMI CDS 5 55170 2) although the Barenboim of 1999 runs it close (Teldec 3984-25249-2). Therefore will this recording become the Dohnányi Fidelio? Very possibly – but not necessarily for all the right reasons.

This is a strong reading of the score with the orchestra fully involved in the production. The pace is generally brisk and occasionally at a gallop. What disappoints me is the balance between wind and strings. The brass has a clear role in this opera that this recording does not reflect: I know not whether the microphones were in the ‘wrong’ place but too often the brass sounds distant or even slightly muffled.

However, Gabriele Schnaut, in the title role, is never muffled. She is a powerful Fidelio (Leonore) whom I usually associate with her more frequent Wagnerian roles. There are several opportunities for her to display her deeply attractive and warm speaking voice commencing with her initial exchanges with Kurt Rydl (the gaoler, Rocco). Her vocal acting is excellent: an example is her eruption after the on-stage plotting of Hartmut Welker (the prison governor Pizarro) and Rydl. She starts with steady, controlled recitative before moving into her truly dramatic soprano with some fairly horrible leaps which she hits well. If there is a suggestion of a lack of vocal strength in her lower register and a slight diminishing of tonal beauty on high, it is more than made up for by her evenness of head to chest transfers, her assurance of vocal line and the believable drama with which she invests the role.

Not having appeared in Act I, Josef Protschka (Florestan) never leaves the stage in Act 2. His introduction to that second act, which leads into his aria, does not reflect the bleakness of his situation. The colouring is too bland with no serious darkness. Therefore there is no overwhelming contrast between that section and the sudden breeze and light as Rocco and Fidelio enter the dungeon bringing a gloom-relieving spring in the music. Certainly Protschka displays that spring with mounting excitement and dynamics. It would have appeared in greater contrast if the first part had conveyed the apparent hopelessness of his position.

The dependable Kurt Rydl is the pragmatic gaoler. Rydl also has the gift of a warm-toned speaking voice. His vocal skills make so clear his role as the reluctant accomplice: with Schnaut, giving wine and bread to Protschka; with Hartmut Welker (Pizarro) in the grave preparation - but convincingly drawing the line at murder. Earlier he is the caring father emphasising the importance of money to oil the wheels of love: Hat man nicht auch Gold beineben. Rydl consistently displays his vocal strengths in note accuracy, dynamics, colours and tone. Really we would expect no less.

The Don Pizarro of Hartmut Welker only occasionally sounds venomously evil. Pizarro is an out-and-out villain with no sign of remorse or hope of redemption. Too frequently Welker seems to mistake loudness for aggression. Critical words are ‘just’ sung and not snarled: Er sterbe!... sounds almost like an invitation. He also has the misfortune to have a too enthusiastic orchestral accompaniment at his initial entrance to the Act I finale.

Don Fernando is a small but important part. Despite his undoubted class, Tom Krause does not quite bring off the rescuing Minister’s authoritarian sound. Initially when addressing the people there are signs of vocal effort. Later there is only limited colouring and vocal involvement in the recognition of Florestan and in the instructions to release Florestan’s fetters.

Ruth Ziesak (Marzelline) and Uwe Heilmann (Jacquino) set the opening ‘domestic’ lyrical scene with complementary tones, brightness and strong vocal lines with subdued orchestral support. Her aria is delivered with a firm vocal line and an emphasis on the lightly lyrical longing of love.

Falk Struckmann as the prisoner is luxury casting: eight years after this recording he became Pizarro on the Barenboim recording - and a nasty piece of work he is there. Here he delivers a soft-toned prisoner suddenly and temporarily released into the light; a pleasure to hear.

The chorus, variously soldiers, prisoners or villagers, are crisp and convincing with dynamics in plenty - from whispering sentries for Pizarro to celebrating villagers.

So much for the individuals: I sometimes wonder whether Beethoven was not more comfortable with a multiplicity of voices. Certainly, for me, the writing for the ensembles appears more assured. The canon Mir ist so wunderbar is excellent. Ziesak’s ringing tone couples with Schnaut’s tonal warmth, Rydl’s gentle depth and Heilmann’s supportive tenor to cogent effect. Similar remarks apply to the thoroughly enjoyable trio Gut, Söhnchen,gut (Schnaut/Ziesak/Rydl).

The interaction of Schnaut and Protschka is fundamental to Act II: sadly, too often the orchestra becomes a participant rather than a supporter. In the last duet, O namenlose Freude!, the consequence of too much orchestral weight is that Schnaut turns up her volume. From time to time she loses both her tonal beauty and her pinpoint steadiness.

In conclusion there are some excellent features on this recording but for me it does not disturb the supremacy of the Klemperer recording.

Robert McKechnie

 


 


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools




Return to Review Index

Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.