Lennie Cruising Vienna
Good Stuff | 01/24/2010
(2 out of 5 stars)
"If you like Lennie, you'll love this "Rosenkavalier". However, I must make a correction: We are told this is a "complete" recording. It is not. For reasons known only to Lennie, and he is dead, you know, he has recorded here a cut version of Strauss' great score. He removed about 15 minutes of music, mostly from the third act, with some from the second act as well. However, as if to make up for it, his tempi are so slow that, as it turns out, its' timing is within a minute or so of Solti's recording, which is note complete. That's our Lennie.
That said, the recording at hand still has its' positive points. The Vienna Philharmonic plays well, of course, as they did for Solti, whose recording was made at almost the same time (with the same orchestra in the same hall). It boasts the considerable talents of Christa Ludwig, Lucia Popp, and Walter Berry, amongst others, in roles they had performed many times on stage. In fact, Ludwig had sung Octavian for many years before switching to the Marschallin, which she preferred. However, and this for me is a however so big it becomes a deal breaker, the Octavian is sung (if that's the right word) by Gwyneth Jones. Miss Jones is an estimable artist who enjoyed a long and very successful career. She chose to go into the Wagner repertoire and became, for all intents and purposes Bayreuth's beloved house Brunhillde for many years. She was said to often be thrilling on stage, and I'm sure she was. But she did so at no small price. Basically, and I can't think of a gentler way of saying this, she ruined her voice. Some people think that's OK if you're singing Wagner (I don't happen to be one of them), and so be it. But you absolutely cannot get away with bad singing in Richard Strauss, which is a celebration of the beauty of the human instrument. Her singing here - and being charitable calling it "singing" - borders on the excruciating. She has no notes above the staff. Her "Presentation of the Rose" in Act 2 is grueling, and her participation in the Act 3 Final Duet, some of the most beautiful music ever written, is painful to listen to. She should have been replaced. Why she wasn't, I haven't the slightest idea. But, along with those ridiculous cuts and Lennie's self-indulgence, the recording is ruined.
If you want to hear Ludwig's Marschallin to better advantage, seek out the Bohm recording on Deutsche Grammophon from a couple of years earlier. It's an air check from a live performance in stereo (but just barely). It's also cut (for some reason Bohm often cut Strauss' operas for performance), but at least it's well conducted and very well sung."
Brilliant work from Bernstein but less than ideal casting
W. Chiles | San Francisco, CA USA | 03/26/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"It's a shame that Bernstein was not able to record more opera as the man had theater in his blood, conducting opera with a great deal of attention to placement of dramatic moments, atmosphere and stage action. He always responded well to the music of R. Strauss and this is no exception. I get the feeling, having heard this opera performed live in SF and Dresden, that THIS is how it should really be conducted. There is a healthy bit of indulgence in the lilt of the waltzes and in those moments where Strauss crafts his most lovely melodies and orchestral effects. Yet, the performance never seems mannered or fussy. The sound, supplied by Decca's engineers and produced by John Culshaw is warm, detailed and bright. The marschalline of Christa Ludwig is touching and exquisite as is Lucia Popp's Sophie. In fact, her performance is my favorite in this role aside from Kathleen Battle. Unfortunately, Gwyneth Jones is ill suited to sing Octavian. She's uncomfortable in the lower tessitura and is unable to rein in her vibrato. Much as I admire her live performances, she gives me warts when I listen to her recordings, and this is one of her very worst. A shame they did not cast Frederic Von Stade. Bernstein lovers may just as well buy this to enjoy his expert conducting and wallow in that Vienna Philharmonic Schlagsahn and enjoy Lucia Popp's Sophie as a bonus. Just don't let it be your only recording of Rosenkavalier. I enjoy Solti's and Karajan's 1956 recording."
So delighted this was finally released again
COLOBARI | all over the world | 04/06/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love this recording. Ludwig as the Marschallin and Jones as Octavian may seem like strange casting to some, and certainly it represents Bernstein's own unique view of what the roles should sound like. However it works beautifully, and all of the singers are here shown at their absolute peak, so complaints are hard to take credibly. Bernstein's take is typically original at times, but he really gets the piece, and there is much sparkle in how it is done. He also handles the moody twilight reflection moments of the score beautifully. The one complaint I have about the reissue is that, typically for Bernstein recordings from almost anywhere, there is a somewhat distant or closed in sound to the recording. I do not know if this was a flaw of the original, or a cheaply done reissue. It is something I have noticed on his recordings with the NY Philharmonic as well. It lacks a certain sense of spaciousness (or resonance) in the sound. It can sound shallow, or narrow. Still, highly recommended and highly enjoyable. A recording that should NEVER be out of print."