Until Seiji Ozawa's classic account of Schönberg's early postromantic masterpiece comes back into print, this is the one to look for. Sinopoli's performance took a while to make an impression on me, I have to admit. Lush, languorous Part One, despite the enormous forces Schönberg calls for in the work, is largely slow, intimate love music. That means it needs to be kept moving, and momentum is distinctly at a premium here with Giuseppe Sinopoli at the helm. On repeated listenings, however, it becomes increasingly difficult not to be seduced by the sheer beauty of the playing of the Staatskapelle Dresden or won over by the ardent singing of the soloists. And since the latter parts of the piece take off very nicely, culminating in a hugely apocalyptic wild hunt and final hymn to the sun, the performance ultimately leaves you feeling quite satisfied. Teldec's very fine sonics, captured live, also add to the glory of the sounds coming from the orchestra and singers. Just have a little patience for the first half-hour or so; it will pay dividends. --David Hurwitz
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Giuseppe Sinopoli initiated this series of recordings when he held the title of principal conductor of the Dresden Staatskapelle from 1992 until his untimely death in 2001. Few conductors have the sense of perspective of the overall grand scheme of this huge work that was Sinopoli's. This is well documented in this the first of what Teldec Classics International series entitled "Live from the Semper Opera Dresden."
Sinopoli's tempi are languid without becoming ponderous. His orchestra performs with a lush fully focused sound, able to take advantage of not only the ample strings settings but also of the solo parts. As far as the artists he employed for this performance they are easily the best of the competition. For instance, Deborah Voigt as Tove has the power and lush quality of sound to sail over the large orchestra in a way that Karita Mattila under Rattle (n the EMI recording) simply couldn't manage. Her sound is never less than gorgeous. Recorded in 1996, this performance by Thomas Moser as Waldemar is fresh, perfectly urgent and beautifully sung; his repeated performance on the Rattle EMI recording in 2002 sounds threadbare by comparison. And while it is difficult to find a Wood Dove better than von Otter's for Rattle, here is the very young and fresh and lush Jennifer Larmore in one of her finest recorded moments. Add Kenneth Riegel as the Fool, Bernd Weikl as Bauer, and most especially Klaus Maria Brandauer (a world renowned and honored actor) as the speaker and the cast is as fine as can be found.
Yet all of these ingredients would be wanting were it not for the choral climaxes that crown this work and Sinopoli enhanced his own chorus with choruses from Leipzig and Prague to produce some of the most rapturous choral singing available. Surely Sinopoli's extensive experience conducting opera contributed to not only his 'casting' of this work but also of the dramatic intensity of this live performance. The final choral apotheosis to the rising sun is extraordinary!
If there were only one recording to make the music world honor the memory of Giuseppe Sinopoli, this might be it. Recommended without reservation! Grady Harp, February 2005
Passionate conducting marshalling vast forces skilfully in the person of Sinopoli: tick; a resplendent-voiced Tove with gleaming top notes and a breathless, girlish sensuality that cuts through the thick orchestral textures - that's Deborah Voigt: tick; a first-rate orchestra entirely at home in Wagnerian excess and exuding class - that's the Dresdeners: tick; all the advantages of a live performance without any of the usual attendant inconveniences such as coughers, superbly recorded: tick; a Wood Dove with trenchant low notes, plaintive and plangent of voice which is redolent of the deepest melancholy and possessing a ringing top - that's the young Jennifer Larmore to a T: tick; a tenor with the heft and beauty of tone to suggest a flawed hero enslaved by an illicit passion...Thomas Moser, aaaargh! His brawny, bleaty blare is a humongous blot on an otherwise glorious recording and is wholly responsible for my subtracting a star from this 1995 live performance which would otherwise rival that of James Levine in Munich. Levine also offers us the divine Voigt in finest form but trumps Sinopoli with the finest heroic tenor of the last generation before Jonas Kaufmann in the person of Ben Heppner, delivering the performance of a lifetime as the dazed and baffled Waldemar, who spits his rage and despair in the face of God.
Because, unlike Tristan and Isolde, the lovers never duet, perhaps proleptically hinting at the doomed nature of their liaison, you cannot even listen to Moser's baritonal barking and be simultaneously distracted by Voigt's crystalline tones - and he has more to sing than anyone, so I have no choice other than regretfully to signal that blot on an otherwise glorious account; try that last pagan splurge, "The Wild Hunt of the Summer Wind" for goose bumps. But Moser - please, why?
Dresden's brilliant Staatskapelle Orchestra plays its' heart out.
The choirs are magnificent.
And the soloists, in their nearly impossible vocal tasks, cover themselves with glory upon glory.
Giuseppe Sinopoli was far from being my favorite conductor. However, it would be ridiculous to deny him his due here. His interpretation is, simply put, the best I've heard in 40 years.
And the recorded sound? Unbelievable in it's clarity and power. The smallest detail can be heard, revealing heretofore unknown textures. Yet the mightiest climaxes are achieved with almost frightening force. The dynamic range is astounding.
As I said, awe inspiring.
If you are looking for the greatest performance of Shoenberg's monumental "Gurrelieder" ever committed to record, your search, in my humble opinion, is over.
Here, the soloists come through the large orchestra and chorus with clarity.
The recording made in Denmark has some sound distortion at higher volumes (a sort of crackling hiss)and the soloists sound like they are at the very rear of the stage struggling to be heard.