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Beethoven: Fidelio (Live 1961)


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Product Details

  • Audio CD (Jan. 1 2004)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Testament
  • ASIN: B0000X81X0
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #73,035 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ralph J. Steinberg on March 13 2004
The Klemperer studio Fidelio for EMI has long been considered one of the supreme, if indeed not the very benchmark, performances of this work. Well, this live 1961 Covent Garden broadcast surpasses it. To begin with the conductor, Klemperer live is a very different musician than when performing in front of a microphone. While tempi can be broad (and I don't mean slow), the tension is of a white-hot nature that one would not normally associate with Klemperer. This is a passionate, even explosive rendition of this most moving of operas, by turns ethereal, thunderous, savage, and grim: The grave digging duet must be the blackest, grimmest, most sinister passage in all music; not even Hagen's music in Goetterdaemmerung can surpass this. And the great choral symphony that ends the opera, "Wer ein holdes Weib errungen", thunders to its victorious conclusion, with Klemperer actually taking it at breakneck speed.
As for the cast, the booklet points out that Klemperer wished to take his entire cast into the recording studio, but Walter Legge vetoed that decision, only allowing Frick and Vickers to be kept on. This was surely one of Legge's biggest blunders. To begin with the youngsters Jacquino and Marzelline, John Dobson and Elsie Morrison project a far more interesting portrayal that usually encountered; Dobson, particularly, is a fiery young man who is genuinely frustrated and heartsick over his fiancee's infatuation with the turnkey Fidelio. Dobson every so often lets his Englishness come through in his German pronunciation, but he is admirable in every way, better than any other tenor in this role. Forbes Robinson as the Minister is very noble and consoling, as he should be. Thanks to the gods for Gottlob Frick!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By "hilde_h_hamilton" on Jan. 24 2004
The world has long known of this legendary performance, unavailable to the public. I've read that some recordings from dubious sources existed. Now, finally, the official release from the original tapes itself from BBC. Listening to it, I am struck by Klemperer's total command of the score. If you've heard his EMI performance, you may think "it's doctored in the studio". But here is a 'live' performance totally undoctored, thrilling in its intensity, just like the EMI performance. In fact, Klemperer moves faster in this 'live' recording. His finale march and the final chorus for instance, moves at a much faster pace, the effect is quite similar to Solti's Fidelio with Behrens and the Chicago forces, but more intense. Klemperer also makes astute use of the timpani to stunning effect. Hans Hotter was in great voice that night although the voice is a bit woofy. Gottlob Frick is superb as Rocco, his dark bass making him sound authoritative as a father. Jon Vickers is unsurpassed as Florestan. I don't care what people say, nobody does THIS like Vickers. Jurinac is excellent as Leonore. Her high B at the end of her Act 1 aria is slightly messed up but that dpesn't really spoil the overall performance which is beautifully and intensely sung. She has a kind of vibrato which is very pleasing to hear.
The ensemble is not always perfect. There are instances of the singers running ahead of the orchestra. After the trio, at the start of the Act 1 march, the audience clapped hysterically until someone shouted "Quiet! Sssssh!!" because Klemperer did not stop for the applause but continued with the performance even though he was drowned out by clapping. So there are all these warts in the performance, undoctored. But the performance is so moving and intense that it just doesn't matter.
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I join in the chorus of praise. Having owned the EMI Klemperer Fidelio for so long, I rushed out to buy this as soon as it was released. It didn't disappoint. The fantastically intense Otto Klemperer is just that in the theatre - fantastically intense. This is a Fidelio to set beside the legends!!
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By A Customer on Jan. 20 2004
Finally, the legendary broadcast is out on CD!! I'm so excited. Klemperer was truly a great Beethoven conductor in the opera house. This is taken from one evening and is totally uncut. Marvellous!!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 8 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Long-awaited legendary performances Jan. 24 2004
By "hilde_h_hamilton" - Published on Amazon.com
The world has long known of this legendary performance, unavailable to the public. I've read that some recordings from dubious sources existed. Now, finally, the official release from the original tapes itself from BBC. Listening to it, I am struck by Klemperer's total command of the score. If you've heard his EMI performance, you may think "it's doctored in the studio". But here is a 'live' performance totally undoctored, thrilling in its intensity, just like the EMI performance. In fact, Klemperer moves faster in this 'live' recording. His finale march and the final chorus for instance, moves at a much faster pace, the effect is quite similar to Solti's Fidelio with Behrens and the Chicago forces, but more intense. Klemperer also makes astute use of the timpani to stunning effect. Hans Hotter was in great voice that night although the voice is a bit woofy. Gottlob Frick is superb as Rocco, his dark bass making him sound authoritative as a father. Jon Vickers is unsurpassed as Florestan. I don't care what people say, nobody does THIS like Vickers. Jurinac is excellent as Leonore. Her high B at the end of her Act 1 aria is slightly messed up but that dpesn't really spoil the overall performance which is beautifully and intensely sung. She has a kind of vibrato which is very pleasing to hear.
The ensemble is not always perfect. There are instances of the singers running ahead of the orchestra. After the trio, at the start of the Act 1 march, the audience clapped hysterically until someone shouted "Quiet! Sssssh!!" because Klemperer did not stop for the applause but continued with the performance even though he was drowned out by clapping. So there are all these warts in the performance, undoctored. But the performance is so moving and intense that it just doesn't matter.
A truly great performance. BTW, I just saw the video from the Met starring Mattila, that is also a great performance. Since Klemperer's EMI Fidelio in 1962, there has not been any truly great recordings of Fidelio coming out. Now suddenly we have 2 together. The 2000 Met production is the greatest Fidelio since Klemperer 1962.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
I waited for a lifetime Jan. 20 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Finally, the legendary broadcast is out on CD!! I'm so excited. Klemperer was truly a great Beethoven conductor in the opera house. This is taken from one evening and is totally uncut. Marvellous!!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
I join in the praise Jan. 29 2004
By "paul_johnsonn" - Published on Amazon.com
I join in the chorus of praise. Having owned the EMI Klemperer Fidelio for so long, I rushed out to buy this as soon as it was released. It didn't disappoint. The fantastically intense Otto Klemperer is just that in the theatre - fantastically intense. This is a Fidelio to set beside the legends!!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Overwhelming Sept. 30 2009
By George Grella - Published on Amazon.com
This is an almost indescribably remarkable document. More than the finest recorded performance of this great opera ever made, it is one of the finest movements of performance one can ever experience, and it is some kind of miracle that we can hold a relive a piece of the fleeting past. It's irrelevant to describe the beauty and intensity of the music-making, but it caresses and grabs by the throat simultaneously. Vickers is overwhelmingly powerful, he leaps at you from the speakers. That the audiences overpowers the orchestra in their frenzied, passionate response as the finale approaches says more than any critic could. Everyone with an interest opera must own this recording.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Jumping on the bandwagon July 21 2004
By T. G Ream - Published on Amazon.com
I'm going to jump on the 5 star bandwagon started by the other reviewers and recommend this recording highly. I don't think it is a first choice for a recording of Fidelio - the playing is a little scrappy in places, the mono sound is good (though a little tubby at times) but we lose one of Klemperer's great strengths, dividing the violins (listen to his Magic Flute,for example, to hear what effect this has), etc. I would still recommend the Klemperer studio recording first, but this is an incredibly moving performance, one that belongs in every opera-lover's or Beethoven lover's collection.

One place where I differ from some of the other reviewers is my reaction to Han Hotter's Pizzaro. Hotter is in wobbly voice, and the role, which is a stock villain role, doesn't give him a chance to develop the character, Hotter's major strength (I've known and loved his Gurnemanz and Wotan/Wanderer for years-these roles do give him the chance to stretch out). Still, he is no worse than Berry in the studio recording, who consistently breaks the vocal line and is over emphatic. (For me the best Pizzaro was the young Fischer-Dieskau on the Fricsay recording-a great recording marred by the use of actors in the dialog).

I'm also not really fond of the traditional practice of playing Leonore III at the scene change in Act II - it really does interrupt the dramatic flow. On the other hand, the additional dialog in this recording allows for much more characterization-and it's well done.

Vickers and Klemperer are even better on this recording than they are in the studio - and that's saying something - get it while you can.


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