Obscure opera by obscure composer but is it ever ROMANTIC !!
G.D. | 05/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"So you don't know Wilhelm Kienzl? Well neither did I, but if you like Verdi and/or Wagner, and if you like a big romantic sounding opera, then this composition, Don Quixote, will bowl you over!I bought this opera on "spec" since I know from experience that this label, CPO, makes serious music with terrific sound.So buy this one -- you won't be sorry!And then hopefully, CPO will record some of Wilhelm Kienzl's other music !"
A thoroughly enjoyable work in splendid performances
G.D. | Norway | 03/02/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wilhelm Kienzl was once very famous for his huge success Der Evangelimann, which at the moment doesn't seem to be commercially available apart from a DVD. Enter the monstrous Don Quixote, a failure at its 1898 premiere - I guess CPO is the only record company that would even consider a project like this. The orchestra requires almost ridiculous forces (including two harps, four guitars, eight trumpets and some less usual suspects (cow horns and castanets)). I wish them all possible success with projects like this, however, especially when the result is as compelling as it is here.
Don Quixote is determinately anti-Wagnerian, and Kienzl appealed instead to classical elements when he eschewed such elements as leitmotifs. Interestingly, the end result doesn't sound at all classical, but - you guessed it - arch-late-romantic, lushly, opulently scored and approximately as Mozartian as Bruckner - although there are obviously traces of Weber and Meyerbeer and Lortzing here. Richard Strauss seems an obvious influence, were it not for the fact that Don Quixote predates all of Richard Strauss's operas with the exception of Guntram.
More importantly, it is a hugely enjoyable, atmospheric, colorful and inventive work, which mixes tragedy and comedy rather successfully to my ears, and - as you would expect from the scoring - many unusual textures, effects and touches. The end result is in fact surprisingly cogent as well; it comes across as far less sprawling than you'd fear, with thorough, multi-dimensional character portraits and several extended, spectacular orchestral interludes, always well - even tastefully - scored, despite its voluptuous richness and opulence.
And just as importantly, it receives a very good performance. Thomas Mohr in the title role has all the stamina and breadth of character required, but also provides some sensitive and really beautiful - radiant, even - singing. James Wagner is a sympathetic Sancho Panza and Michelle Breedt is a more than satisfactory Mercedes; not always wielding a gorgeous tone, but overall impressive; Matthias Hennenberg as Carrasco has to go through a lot of unusual moves (including impersonation and falsetto singing) and does so admirably. The smaller roles are also generally very good, and the Berlin Radio Orchestra and chorus provide all the lushness and vibrancy you could wish for under Gustav Kuhn's committed direction. The sound quality is excellent, and so are the notes. While this might not, in the end, be a masterpiece, it is thoroughly rewarding and enjoyable, and the set deserves all the success it can get. Strongly recommended to any lover of late romantic opera."