Giuseppe Sinopoli and the Staatskapelle Dresden
Kai Vogler (violin); Peter Bruns (cello)
Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden/Giuseppe Sinopoli, Sylvain Cambreling, Peter Ruzicka
rec. live 1994-2004 Semperoper, Dresden, Germany
Edition Staatskapelle Dresden - Volume 35
PROFIL PH07053 [CDs: 70.36 + 71.40]

Profil has issued its Edition Staatskapelle Dresden, Vol. 35 titled Giuseppe Sinopoli and the Staatskapelle Dresden, marking the fifteenth anniversary of the death of Sinopoli and honouring what would have been his seventieth birthday. Notably, Sinopoli served as this great orchestra’s chief conductor from 1992 until his untimely death in 2001. As principal conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden, founded in 1548 as the Royal Court Orchestra, Sinopoli joined a long and distinguished line of predecessors which include Carlo Maria von Weber and Richard Wagner and in the twentieth-century Karl Böhm and Rudolf Kempe. The booklet notes explain that in 2003 Sinopoli was to be appointed General Music Director of the Sächsische Staatsoper Dresden. He was also in the process of completing a Doctorate in Archaeology.

The music world was shocked when in 2001 Giuseppe Sinopoli collapsed and died of a heart attack in the orchestra pit, during the third act of Verdi’s Aida at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, aged 54. Sinopoli was born in Venice in 1946 and went on to study music at Venice Conservatory and medicine at University of Padua. He studied conducting with Hans Swarowsky in Vienna and composition with Bruno Maderna in Venice, Franco Donatoni in Siena and Ligeti and Stockhausen at Darmstadt, Germany. Despite the opportunity of jobs in medicine, his passion was for a career in music. It is said that his international breakthrough came in 1980 conducting Verdi’s Macbeth at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. In 1984 Sinopoli became principal conductor of the Philharmonia, London and in 1992 principal conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden. Sinopoli tended to specialise in conducting late-nineteenth century and early-twentieth century works. Prior to his international conducting career taking off, Sinopoli was also a devoted composer. Sinopoli’s most renowned composition is probably his opera Lou Salomé first staged at Munich in 1981.

With the exception of three of Sinopoli’s own compositions, this double CD release comprises of a section of works from Weber, Richard Strauss, Wagner, Liszt and Schumann, representative of the mainstream Classical/Romantic concert repertoire he usually played with the Staatskapelle Dresden. The opening work on the set is Weber’s Overture from the opera Oberon, described at its première as ‘A Grand Romantic and Fairy Opera’. An inspiring work, the Overture is a magical excursion into the kingdom of fairies, sprites and elves, continually touched with the mystery and wonder of the forest. Under Sinopoli the Dresden players achieve an elevated level of expression rarely achieved in this early work of the Romantic period.

Richard Strauss’ tone poem Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life), telling the story of a Romantic imaginary hero, is an irresistible orchestral showpiece crammed with incident, including love and battle scenes. The massive orchestra, with the extended wind and brass sections which Strauss requires for his imaginary hero, is bonded together by Sinopoli with unwavering assurance, revealing a surprising amount of normally imperceptible orchestral detail. Of particular note are the gloriously unified strings and the quality of the horn section. In the third section Strauss’ wife, the soprano Pauline de Ahna, is represented by the solo violin, played quite splendidly by Kai Vogler.

Wagner’s early Grand opera in five acts, Rienzi, was premièred by the forerunners of this orchestra under the composer’s baton in 1842 to open the original Semperoper, Dresden. Described by Meyerbeer as “rich in fantasy and of great dramatic effect”, the opera is occasionally revived today. However the Overture is heard much more often in concert performance. Sinopoli gives a direct and incisive performance, creating a striking weight of orchestral sound and confidently underlining the memorable main melody. Not surprisingly, Sinopoli’s interpretation reminds me closely of a performance of Rienzi Overture which I heard Christian Thielemann conduct with this orchestra in Dresden on the eve of the bicentennial of Wagner’s birth in 2013.

The second CD opens with Liszt’s Orpheus, the fourth symphonic poem in the cycle of twelve he composed during his time in Weimar. Liszt originally wrote Orpheus to serve as a prelude and epilogue to a production of Gluck’s opera Orpheus ed Eurydice that he was conducting in Weimar. Sinopoli receives a sympathetic response, high on vitality, from his Dresden players.

Sinopoli made it a rule not to perform his own works at Staatskapelle concerts. After completing his degree in Archeology he intended to devote the time to composing and revising his scores. Presented here is the single occasion when in 1994 Sinopoli conducted his own work. It was the brief Homage to Costanzo Porta, the middle section of the three-movement Pour un livre à Venise from 1975, noticeably atonal and Bergian in character but with more warmth than I have come to expect from the Second Viennese School. There is an abundance of weight and vitality to Sinopoli’s writing, together with noticeable feeling. After Sinopoli’s death, taking the initiative themselves in 2004 with Peter Bruns as the cello soloist, the Staatskapelle Dresden under Sylvain Cambreling performed Tombeau d’Armor III for cello and orchestra. It’s a cello concerto and is the final part of Tombeau d’Amor, the three parts of which date from 1977/78. Sinopoli clearly rated the score highly, as he was considering having it performed in Dresden. Sinopoli stated that behind the melody in Tombeau d’Armor is the memory of Bruno Maderna, and also of his friendship with cellist Siegfried Palm. Cello soloist Peter Bruns is in his element with this score, a craggy work with lots of fascinating sounds and colours, and a strong tension which repeatedly increases and relaxes. Bruns’ often abrasive sounding cello line seems to be navigating a winding course around and through a large number of sudden and weighty orchestral outbursts which can shake you to the core. The final Sinopoli work here is his Symphonic Fragment for large orchestra from the opera Lou Salomé, probably his most important work, which Peter Ruzicka conducted in 2001 at a concert dedicated to Giuseppe Sinopoli’s memory. Designed as a post-Bergian two-act opera, Lou Salomé is about Russian-born psychoanalyst and writer Lou Andreas-Salomé. This Symphonic Fragment is a work shot through with tension, turmoil and malice. A central passage feels ominous and loudly threatening as it builds with fierce determination. As a respite, the music fades away to nothing leaving behind a sense of calm.

The final work on the set is Schumann’s Symphony No. 4. Sinopoli deeply admired Schumann’s music and at Dresden he conducted all four symphonies and recorded the oratorio Das Paradies und die Peri. Incidentally, during a rehearsal in April 2001 Sinopoli spoke to his Dresden players saying if he were to die, he would like the slow movement from the Symphony No. 1 played. Four weeks later he was dead and they subsequently played it at a memorial ceremony. Composed in 1841 at Leipzig, Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 in D minor was introduced the same year by the Gewandhaus Leipzig conducted by Ferdinand David. This is a product of happy times for the composer, who was married only the previous year. Clara Schumann wrote in her diary “It is a work created out of the deepest soul.” Desiring a fuller, richer sound, in 1851 Schumann gave the score substantial revision and it is this revised version that was subsequently published as Op. 120. Some conductors, such as Sir Simon Rattle with the Berliner Philharmoniker, are now playing and recording the original 1841 version. Using the 1851 version, Sinopoli conducts a vibrant performance, highly compelling. He allows plenty of space around Schumann’s lyrical themes, conveying a feeling of special intimacy in the Romanze together with considerable drama, especially in the Scherzo and Finale. The forward momentum and weight feel ideally balanced by Sinopoli.

These are all live performances from the Semperoper Dresden, recorded and broadcast between 1994/2004 by Mitteldeutscher Runfunk (MDR). Assisted by the marvellous acoustic of the Semperoper the engineering team has skilfully captured the sound, which is close but clear with good presence and satisfactory balance. Naturally there is some audience noise, but nothing to worry about too much and applause is present in some of the works. Containing a number of fascinating pictures and extensive notes together with a helpful and detailed essay In remembrance of Sinopoli by Eberhard Steindorf, the booklet is an example of best practice and does the Profil label credit.

Marvellously performed by the Staatskapelle Dresden this fascinating Profil set honours the talents of the much admired Giuseppe Sinopoli who sadly died before his time.

Michael Cookson

Performance details
CD 1 [70.36]
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
1. Overture to Oberon romantic opera in three acts (1826) [9.30]
Staatskapelle Dresden/Giuseppe Sinopoli
Live concert recording of the celebration of the 450th anniversary of the
Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden on 22nd September 1998 in the Semperoper, Dresden
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
2. Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life) tone poem for large orchestra, Op. 40 (1898) [48.59]
Kai Vogler (solo violin)
Staatskapelle Dresden/Giuseppe Sinopoli
Live concert recording of the 5th symphony concert given by the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden on 10th, 11th January 2001 in the Semperoper, Dresden
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
3. Overture to Rienzi opera in five acts (1842) [12.05]
Staatskapelle Dresden/Giuseppe Sinopoli
Live concert recording of the 3rd symphony concert given by the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden on 27th October 1998 in the Semperoper, Dresden
CD 2 [71.40]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
1. Orpheus, symphonic poem No. 4 (1854/56) [11.42]
Staatskapelle Dresden/Giuseppe Sinopoli
Live concert recording of the 3rd symphony concert given by the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden on 27th October 1998 in the Semperoper, Dresden
Giuseppe SINOPOLI (1946-2001)
2. Homage to Costanzo Porta (2)
After Costanzo Porta (1528-1601) Motets,
From ‘Pour un livre à Venise’ (1975) [4.44]
Staatskapelle Dresden/Giuseppe Sinopoli
Live concert recording of the 7th symphony concert given by the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden on 20th December 1994 in the Semperoper, Dresden
3. Tombeau d’Armor III for cello and orchestra)
from Tombeau d’Amor parts I-III (1977/78)
Literary model from Tristan Corbière (1845-1875) [21.17]
Peter Bruns (solo cello)
Staatskapelle Dresden/Sylvain Cambreling
Live concert recording of the 9th symphony concert given by the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden on 5th/7th March 2004 in the Semperoper, Dresden
4. Symphonic Fragment for large orchestra from opera Lou Salomé
(1981) [5.35]
Staatskapelle Dresden/Peter Ruzicka
Live concert recording of the 2nd symphony concert given by the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden on 6th October 2001 in the Semperoper, Dresden
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-56)
5-8. Symphony No. 4 in D minor, op. 120 (1841, revised 1851) [27.50]
Staatskapelle Dresden/Giuseppe Sinopoli
Live concert recording of the 1st symphony concert given by the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden on 30th August 1993 in the Semperoper, Dresden

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