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Rattle's 'Fidelio'

available at Amazon
Beethoven, Fidelio, A. Denoke, J. Villars, A. Held, T. Quasthoff, Berlin Philharmonic, S. Rattle

(re-released on November 11, 2008)
EMI 2 17630 2 | 110'10"

Online score:
Beethoven, Fidelio

available at Amazon
Paul Robinson, Ludwig van Beethoven: Fidelio
EMI recently re-released this 2003 concert performance of Beethoven's only opera, made during Berlin performances of the opera with the same cast that performed it at the Salzburg Easter Festival that year. Whether it really stands a chance among a hundred or so available recordings, even at a bargain-bottom price for a 2-CD set, likely depends on the type of collector. If price is the only concern, this recording is more than acceptable among a large field: good sound, an unusual reading by Simon Rattle, full of personal nuances right from the opening bars, with great playing and singing from Berlin Philharmonic and the Arnold Schoenberg Chor (but a bare-bones booklet, with no libretto, of course). For scholarly interest, it was apparently the first recording made from Helga Lühning's new critical edition for Bärenreiter -- the confusion of versions of the opera that have to be sorted out is far too vast to go into here. The supporting cast is particularly fine, including Alan Held's disturbed Don Pizarro, László Polgár's Rocco, Juliane Banse's Marzelline, and especially Thomas Quasthoff's Don Fernando, but one wishes better results for the two leads.

Angela Denoke has had her detractors, in this role and others, although her coverage at Ionarts has been generally positive. Still, for power, pitch accuracy, and overall beauty of tone (in spite of a lovely "Komm, Hoffnung") there are far better Leonoras out there, like Christine Brewer (in either German or English), Christa Ludwig (stupendous), Birgit Nilsson (impeccable), Gwyneth Jones (intense), Elisabeth Söderström (at Glyndebourne with Bernard Haitink at the helm), Hildegard Behrens, Deborah Voigt, and the upcoming re-release of Jessye Norman from Decca. Regrettably, there are better Florestans than Jon Villars, too: a young Jonas Kaufmann in a Zurich DVD conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Ben Heppner before the cracks in the Met DVD with Karita Mattila. A truly excellent recording will cost more, and Rattle's version cannot complete against, for example, Mackerras's historical instruments recording with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, not to mention classics by names like Klemperer (above all, by most accounts) and, roughly in this order, Furtwängler, and Kleiber (with room further down the list for Böhm, Karajan, and Solti).


la. said...

Nothing to do with this post but: I finally found some (very poor) references for the record of Marx's Herbstsinfonie:

Eine Herbstsinfonie in H-Dur für großes Orchester 1920/21
Ein Herbstgesang
Tanz der Mittagsgeister
Ein Herbstpoem
Orchester: Großes Orchester Graz
Dirigent: Michel Swierczewski
Stefaniensaal, Graz, 24. & 25. Oktober 2005
Verlag: …


Sadly, there's no mention for the label, but it might be without any label, as the conductor also works as a sound engineer (or however you call that). He possibly made his own record, as I remember the CD cover to look really homemade. And we kind of lost the CD itself, because my friend lent it to our professor, who died in April...
Anyway, here's a link where you could download it:
I think that's it!

Charles T. Downey said...

Wow -- thanks for remembering this and for passing along the info!