6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Paul S. Rottenberg
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This is an excellent performance of a great modern classic. The live production is from 1994, with Daniel Barenboim conducting and Franz Grundheber as Wozzeck and Waltraud Meier as Marie. It generally surpasses Claudio Abbado's 1988 live version with the Vienna Philharmonic and with Franz Grundheber as Wozzeck since the singers are all very good and the sound is better, allowing the singing to hold its own with the orchestra in the loud spots. Abbado is wonderful in bringing out details in the score and in projecting Berg's compassion for his protagonist, and, of course, his orchestra is superb, but Barenboim is equally wonderful, though his orchestra isn't quite the match of the Vienese. In addition, Waltraud Meier as Marie is far superior to Hildegard Behrens in the Abbado set; Ms. Behrens seems just too old and tired for the role.
We should, however, mention the great and classic account by Karl Bohm with the equally great Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as Wozzeck (the best ever!) and Evelyn Lear as Marie. That 1960s studio recording is still one of the best of this work, and because it's in the studio, the voices come over in perfect balance with the orchestra, never drowned out, as in Abbado's. The combination of the warmth of both Bohm's approach and Fischer-Dieskau's marvellous voice make it a monument to the art of recording. It's interesting that both Bohm and Barenboim are equally great conductors of Wagner, especially of TRISTAN.
In addition, I must add that the Barenboim is available on a DVD (apparently only from Amazon.UK), and that if you can afford it, I would recommend it as the best available DVD of WOZZECK now on the market. A critic for THE BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE calls this a "near classic" account of Berg's great work.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Santa Fe Listener
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This is a special accomplishment for Daniel Barenboim, the best opera recording I've ever heard from him and a Wozzeck to join the very best. I had avoided listening to it, expecting nothing special from a live staging in Berlin in 1994 (the premiere under Erich Kleiber took place there in 1925). Franz Grundhaber was also a known quantity in the title role, having recorded it under Abbado in 1988 and sung it almost everywhere, including the Met, for over a decade. But expectations can be foiled, and i this case Barenboim shows a remarkable mastery over the orchestral part. Because it falls int the category of an Expressionist work, Wozzeck is usually performed on the edge of hysteria, with lurid underlinings and bold contrasts. Barenboim takes the bold step of leading the work as if it exists in a shadowy dream world. He adds subtlety and shading in a way that escapes even Abbado, who had the advantage of a world-class pit orchestra in the form of the Vienna Phil.
Grundhaber seems strained and over-emphatic in Abbado's recording, but here, six years later, he's subtler, softer, and more intriguing as the harassed, exploited Everyman crumbling to pieces in a schizophrenic world. My two favorite singers of the role are still Fischer-Dieskau under Bohm (DG) and Walter Berry under Boulez (Sony), but Grundhaber makes a strong, convincing impression, ahead of every other rival. As Marie, Waltraud Meier is unusual in being a dramatic mezzo rather than soprano, but the role is vocally flexible, and she is in good voice, to which she adds her well-known dramatic intensity. This isn't a weepy, lost, or fragile woman but a staunch existential heroine doomed by poverty and the dark turmoil in Wozzeck's mind.
One should also say something about the style of Sprechstimme being adopted. what used to be a daunting task, assigning musical values to words half-sung, half-spoken, has become second nature for modern singers. The various characters are here allowed a wide, flexible range of delivery. Sometimes we hear straight lyrical singing, other times hysterical shouting, and much in between. Graham Clarke, as a nightmarishly insane captain, shrieks like someone out of a German horror movie, while Meier's Marie favors singing, pure and simple. I like the variety that this flexibility allows. But I'm just as impressed by Barenboims many insights into the score, reminding me that he is often at his strongest conducting the Second Viennese School, despite much greater fame in Wagner and Bruckner.
As for the recorded sound, it is remarkably good. The Abbado set suffered by weighing the balance far too much in favor of the orchestra, and at first I had similar fears here, because the shaving scene that opens the opera is place too distantly. But the miking gets rectified, and after the wood-gathering scene with Andres, the sonics are as good as any studio job.