Fantastic Sound and fantastic performance
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I always buy lesser known labels with trepidation because I can never know what kind of sound quality I will get. However, so far my experience with Koch Schwann is that they provide superb sound quality. This is the second Koch Scwhann set that I bought. The mono sound is superclear with lots of space around the music - it sounds more like 'thin stereo' - perhaps the engineers were experimenting with stereo then. Everything is crystal clear and the voices are prominently recorded with every note audible. If I play the music and don't tell you it's mono, you won't realize it!! Koch Schwann must has access to the original masters because these transfers are superb. Having put the question of sound quality to rest, what about the performance. Well, this is Birgit Nilsson's first recorded Leonore, and it is certainly her best. When I first heard her performance here, I was actually stunned. Those who claim that Birgit Nilsson is 'cold' and does not characterize too well should listen to this recording. I have her Maazel performance and I've always thought that in that recording, she was somewhat below what she was capable of. But this set triumphs over all the others. Here she seems more involved than in the Maazel performance. It could be that she was not that famous in 1956 (her Met triumph was 1959) so it is possible that she worked harder at her characterization here and there is a palpable difference. In Maazel, she does not seem too interested in doing the part well - perhaps she was then famous and very busy doing too many roles and that affected her. I would definitely recommend this Birgit Nilsson set (in mono and at full-price) above the Maazel Decca set (in stereo and at mid-price). You needn't worry about sound quality - it is superb!! Part of the reason is that this was done specially as a radio broadcast and not from staged performances so the producers made sure that the singers are clearly heard and the orchestra well- balanced. Erich Kleiber's conducting is definitely superior to Maazel. Maazel (25 years old, thereabouts) was very young when he conducted the Decca set with Nilsson. On the other hand, Erich Kleiber (father of Carlos Kleiber) was a legend - witness his legendary Figaro with Decca in 1955. Unfortunately, he passed away shortly after doing this broadcast.There is another performance Birgit Nilsson as Leonore - the Rome 1970 version with Leonard Bernstein. That version is terrific but for one thing, the sound quality there is not as good. And although Birgit Nilsson with Bernstein was better than with Maazel, she is still the best down here. Yes, this is Birgit Nilsson's best Leonore. If you are a fan of Birgit Nilsson or a collector of Fidelios or Birgit Nilsson performances, this set is indispensable. Even for the general public at large, this is a great second set to supplement the Klemperer Fidelio which is still the best Fidelio ever recorded."
One of the greatest Leonores on record
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have often heard the statement that Birgit Nilsson was the greatest Leonore of her time. I heard her Decca performance with Maazel, I was a bit sceptical of that statement. But yes, after hearing this, Birgit Nilsson certainly qualifies!! She evinces more commitment and her phrasing is much better in this set than in the Maazel set. Make sure you get hold of this famous Cologne performance."
Excellent Music... Horrible Recording
A Reviewer | IL, USA | 10/23/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"While the vocal quality of the performance is excellent, and the opera itself is wonderful, the listener may find it difficult at times to listen to the music through the fogginess of the recording. Of course, this is a very old recording, so no more can be expected, but I must warn prospective buyers that this is not what you want to buy if you are looking for a good complete recording of Fidelio. It is very difficult to be involved in the music when everything sounds faint and distant."