Christa Ludwig / Jon Vickers / Otto Klemperer / Philharmonia Chorus / Philharmonia Orchestra

Beethoven: Fidelio

(CD - EMI Music Distribution #555170-2)

Review by

As EMI continues to plunder its vaults for antique treasure, it continues to release recordings that are so much better than much of what has subsequently been released that it makes one wonder why new generations keep trying to reinvent the wheel. The cast of this 1962 recording of Beethoven's Fidelio is yet to be improved upon. It would be hard to imagine a more heartrending Leonore than Christa Ludwig, a nobler Florestan than Jon Vickers, or a viler Rocco than Gottlob Frick. As fine as the cast is, the work of conductor Otto Klemperer is the real reason that this Fidelio is the Fidelio to get if you're getting only one. Acknowledged in his time as one of the greatest of postwar Beethoven conductors, Klemperer is at the top of his game here, delivering a performance that is perfectly formed, wonderfully detailed, intensely dramatic, and overwhelmingly effective, without being trite, tawdry, or overdone. By the time the Act II finale ends, Klemperer should have all but the most skeptical listeners convinced that not only is this the finest recording of Fidelio ever made, but that Fidelio is Beethoven's greatest work. Recorded in warm yet vivid stereo sound, this release should be heard by any Beethoven fan.