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Felix MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY (1809-1847)
Oedipus in Kolonos op.93 (1845) [63.07]
Angela Winkler (Antigone), Joachim Kuntzch (Oedipus), Michael Ransburg (Theseus, Kreon, Polyneikes), Julia Nachtmann (Ismene), Manfred Bittner (Bass).
Kammerchor Stuttgart, Klassiche Philharmonie Stuttgart/Frieder Bernius
rec. live, Europäisches Musikfest, Liederhalle, Stuttgart, 2004.
Contents list at end of review
CARUS 83.225 [63.07]

This live recording made in Stuttgart some ten years ago is a superbly dramatic realisation of the piece. Mendelssohn’s music for Oedipus in Kolonos is less well-known than his of that for Antigone (see review). Both sets of incidental music (also recorded by Brilliant Classics) were commissions from the Prussian king Frederick William IV who was on a mission during the 1840s to reinvigorate the genre of classic drama in Berlin including Greek tragedy but also Shakespeare and other “great” playwrights. Mendelssohn was also asked to compose music for Æschylus’s Oresteia trilogy, but he declined the commission – much to posterity’s loss.

The Oedipus in Kolonos score does not justify its neglect being characterful, well-composed and sensitive music. In particular, I was impressed by the interesting variety of compositional textures which Mendelssohn employs for the realisation of the Choruses, from musical declamation through to eight-part polyphony.

On this release from Carus we have a committed and convincing performance from all involved. There is some very impressive dovetailing of spoken words and text - several of the actors have a strong element of musical training and this lends credence and polish to the entire proceedings.

The orchestral playing from the Klassische Philharmonie Stuttgart under the baton of Frieder Bernius is focused and well-articulated. The balance within that ensemble is also good and the brass are used colouristically and do not dominate the texture. The singing is of a very high quality as well, with clear enunciation from the Kammerchor Stuttgart. The overall balance is also near-ideal with just the very occasional moment when the orchestra threatens to cover the women’s voices.

The booklet is an integral part of the disc — so no jewel case — and contains, pleasingly, the texts as well as good notes from R. Larry Todd - albeit the presentation of these is a little congested.

We should note that Bernius and Carus have also recorded Mendelssohn's music for Antigone (review).

Overall, the present Oedipus CD is an excellent disc, well thought-through and boasting the highest standards of music-making.

Em Marshall-Luck

Contents List
Introduktion, Andante [1:35]
Andante-Allegro moderato- Piu lento. O schau! Er entfloh! [12:37]
Allegro moderato – Allegro tranquillo. Grausam ist es, o Freund. [4:46]
Allegro tranquillo. ZurSpeak rossprangenden Flur, o Freund [7:50]
Allegro – Lento. Weh mir! – In Kurzem solist du mehr wehrfuen noch! [5:18]
Allegro Vivace – Allegro maestoso, ma vivace. Ach, wär ich, wo bald die Schar [6:17]
Andante. Wer ein längeres Lebensteil wünscht [6:47]
Lento – Allegro molto. Auf ums bricht von dem blinden Greis [6:52]
Adagio. Ist es verstattet, dich, mäctige Gottin [6:47]
Sostenuto assai – Allegro – Andante Adagio maestoso. Weh uns! Überall und ewig mussen wir klagen [6:32]