Top Ear

Abbado’s Gurrelieder: Hard to be Bettered

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Jeremy Lee writes

I’ll keep this review short:  of all the Gurrelieders I’ve heard, Abbado’s with the VPO is my favorite without question.  Recorded live in 1995 in terrific sound, this disc was deleted immediately after it was released, which is a great pity because everyone concerned performs at their very best.  Abbado’s pacing is fluid and constantly lively, and while on one hand he lets his 400-strong forces go wild in sheer amplitude in the climaxes, he also takes great care to layer the shimmering chamber-like textures in parts such as the very opening, and the result is crystal-clear detail.  The soloists are all in their prime, Siegfried Jerusalem in particular far outclassing his work for Chailly around 5 years prior to this performance (note the high B in “Ross, Mein Ross”), and they all sing with truly engaging, heart-on-sleeve emotion.  Abbado’s decision to cast actress Barbara Sukowa as the Narrator is not without controversy, but her exceptionally characterful performance will surely grow on listeners accustomed to male narrators. Meanwhile, the Vienna Philharmonic plays with the utmost enthusiasm and flair while retaining their specially dark timbre.  Compared to this greatly inspired performance, acclaimed readings such as Inbal (Denon), Ozawa (Philips) and Chailly (Decca) are cast into the shadows, largely because while they are content with controlling the traffic, Abbado goes further and delivers a performance that is truly ear-opening.  And that’s no mean feat.  If you’re new to this master essay of gargantuanism, grab this Eloquence reissue immediately. Details

  • Album name:  Schoenberg:  Gurrelieder
  • Performers:  Siegfried Jerusalem (Waldemar); Sharon Sweet (Tove); Marjana Lipovsek (Wood Dove); Hartmut Welker (Peasant); Philip Langridge (Klaus the Jester); Barbara Sukowa (Narrator); Claudio Abbado (conductor);  Wiener Philharmoniker;  Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor;  Arnold Schoenberg Chor; Slowakischer Philharmonischer Chor Bratislava
  • Label:  Eloquence 480 7055
  • Sonics:  Stereo DDD
  • Total playing time:  106:59
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Author: Top Ear

Musical hooligans.

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