Marc Albrecht

Richard Strauss: Elektra

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Challenge Classics' audiophile presentation of Richard Strauss' one-act opera Elektra deserves serious attention for the excitement of the Netherlands Opera's production, which was recorded in October 2011, and for the excellence of the SACD/DSD format, which gives listeners real value for the price. The cast, which features Evelyn Herlitzius as Elektra, and includes Michaela Schuster as Clytemnestra, Camilla Nylund as Chrysothemis, Hubert Delamboye as Aegisthus, and Gerd Grochowski as Orestes, meets Strauss' extreme vocal demands, though Herlitzius especially possesses the stamina and emotional power to carry her role to its grim end. Marc Albrecht, a respected authority on Strauss' operatic music, leads the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra with energy and urgency, so the suspense and violence of the intense score come across with disturbing vividness and considerable shock value, particularly in the explosive brass and percussion, the grinding dissonances, and in the truly sinister sonorities in the low register. While it is relatively short and still recognizably tonal (despite Strauss' attempt to push his music to the edge of atonality), Elektra is not an easy opera to appreciate because of its psychological complexity. Furthermore, the libretto is only provided in German in the hardcover package, so listeners who require a translation will need to look elsewhere. But if any modern recording can be recommended as a valuable introduction to this work, this one certainly works well for its sustained power and transparent reproduction.

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