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Alban Berg: Wozzeck (Opera in 3 Acts) - Franz Grundheber / Hildegard Behrens / Wiener Philharmoniker / Claudio Abbado
Alban Berg, Claudio Abbado, Hildegard Behrens
Alban Berg: Wozzeck (Opera in 3 Acts) - Franz Grundheber / Hildegard Behrens / Wiener Philharmoniker / Claudio Abbado
Genre: Classical
 
This 1988 Vienna State Opera production of Wozzeck is, to my ears, vastly superior to the 1979 performance by Christoph von Dohnányi with the same orchestra. The entire emotional and dynamic range of the music is here, pro...  more »

      
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This 1988 Vienna State Opera production of Wozzeck is, to my ears, vastly superior to the 1979 performance by Christoph von Dohnányi with the same orchestra. The entire emotional and dynamic range of the music is here, projected in striking relief. The anxieties of the tale are unflinchingly portrayed, but so, too, are the many moments of tenderness and rapturous beauty. The cast--Franz Grundheber plays the title role and Hildegard Behrens portrays Marie--are skilled dramatists as well as voices, even on record. The disc commemorates one of the rare instances when a company has done justice to the dazzling splendor of Berg's conception. --Joshua Cody

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CD Reviews

A Monument in Vienna Opera history
Santa Fe Listener | 05/23/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I own this Wozzeck since it was released. I don't play it too often. But every time the experience is electrifying. I have seen a televised broadcast of this performance as well, which made me decide to buy the CD set.Seldom have I heard such unity and congruence in a live performance, even watching it on TV or listening at home. In Berg's Wozzeck, every musical and dramaturgical detail is most important, and this production comes very close to being ideal. Abbado and his vocalists and instrumentalists join each other in a splendid performance in which all efforts come beautifully together to create this monumental human drama. I do not want to repeat here what is said by other reviewers. To me, this recording is a document. It documents the supreme musical and dramatical artistry of Alban Berg which is on the same high level as that of the other supreme master of music and drama, Mozart.This production is also a monument in Vienna Opera history, as it is one of (or THE) highlight of the artistic leadership of Claudio Abbado, who, together with Claus Helmut Drese as Opera Director at the time, is to be credited for the outstanding quality of many productions at the Vienna State Opera - a quality it has lost since both left this house."
Great orchestra, but Abbado misses the terror and mystery
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 09/18/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Abbado falters when he conducts careful, reticent performances and misses the music's inner passion. This Wozzeck seems like that to me, in spsite of its technical brilliance. The orchestra s recorded far forward with incredible detail, and one couldn't expect any better than from the Vienna Phil.

But the singers, reduced sometimes to a secondary attraction, don't catch fire, particularly the Wozzeck of veteran Grundheber, which is just good, middle-of-the-road work. almost every other major Wozzeck on record--Walter Berry, Fischer-Dieskau, Eberhard Waechter, and the first, Mack Harrell--seems much more inspired and dramatically intense. Behrens is a gripping Marie, and her somewhat threadbare voice by this time sounds just right for this worn-out proletarian victim. All in all, a set to value for its orchestral detail but not for the action onstage."
Outstanding recording!!! [This is based on samples + DVD of
Alexander Z. Damyanovich | Flesherton, Ontario, Canada | 01/05/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Why was the Böhm recording pulled for a while from the catalogue when this Abbado document was released? Often such things are done by recording companies to help boost new recordings done by different artists working for the same firms. While yours truly finds that practise hideous, the best older recordings will eventually come back - if the new ones prove themselves, they'll eventually co-exist with the older ones. So it has happened with the Böhm, which - while not far (if at all) inferior to the Abbado here being reviewed - is nevertheless NOT superior!! Indeed, this Abbado is so outstanding so as not to have needed such protection/boosting at the expense of the Böhm...

Abbado does a superb job with the Wiener Philharmoniker - some of the details Karl Böhm glosses over or ignores are brought out so beautifully here as to make this view of "Wozzeck" a revelation! While there are a few things I could like Böhm for in terms of individual instruments' expression (not that many, but they're there), there's no question that this recording beats it hands down - and the playing of the Vienna Philharmonic is stellar (although the Deutsche Oper for Böhm does him proud, the Viennese here prove why they're reckoned as amongst the world's top orchestras)!!! [Also, the balances by the same company, Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft, are here better and more natural - e.g., the solo-viola obbligato of Act I, Scene 1, or the military-band in Act I Scene 3, redressing the deficits present with the Böhm recording.] Some of the low notes of the tuba, 4th trombone and contrabassoon, sometimes not that easy to reach, make their full case here for inclusion (as Berg wanted) compared to Böhm's cheating them for the sake of his voice-favouring, "lightish" accompaniment.

As to the singers, I dare say that everybody does a superb job!! Top kudos for me go to Hildegard Behrens as Marie as well as to both Aage Haugland as the quack "Doktor" (he's absolutely a winner!!) and Heinz Zednik (in spite of a few wrong notes that want to go tonal...) as the Captain, though nobody is a slouch here in the least. Perhaps one could have wished for a little more poetry in the title rôle (something Fischer-Dieskau gives us with Böhm); however, there's no question of Franz Grundheber being outstanding here!

Definitely I'm most favourably impressed by Frau Behrens!! I not only love her voice and musicianship (also a superb actress on the DVD - she's more than totally believable in her rôle!), also most appealing is the way she handles the Sprechstimme portions in Act III Scene 1 - better in my opinion than Evelyn Lear for Karl Böhm (it's better to err on the side of singing when handling that ferociously-difficult kind of declamation than on the side of speaking, and Behrens' feeling for it is so classy {even if Lear's likely somewhat closer to Berg's intentions}!!!!). Bravissima, wirklich Prächtig!!! I detect no wobble or real strain on her - or anybody else's part in what's a fearsomely difficult opera (when performed properly). Whoever thinks otherwise, I'd like them to point out as much, ideally with score references (that's what the comments' feature for individual reviews are for!).

This is the version to get, no questions asked. QED."