Boston Symphony Orchestra / James McCracken / Seiji Ozawa

Schoenberg: Gurrelieder

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Given the eminence of the performers assembled for this recording, this is a particularly disappointing reading of Schoenberg's Gurrelieder. Both the conductor and the recording engineers must share the blame for the fact that this monumental oratorio, using one of the largest orchestras of any late romantic work, comes across as sounding dinky. The orchestra is especially anemic and colorless in the prelude, a vivid evocation of the sun setting in the forest, which is one of the most sumptuous and richly orchestrated early twentieth century tone paintings. The orchestra improves as the work progresses, and in other sections, such as the Song of the Wood Dove, and in the Hunt, it demonstrates that it's capable of producing a full sound, but the performance is too uneven to be satisfactory. Ozawa fails to convey a broad and meaningful sense of the work's architecture, which is especially critical in order for such a sprawling piece to make sense. This recording stands in sharp contrast to René Leibowitz's 1953 version, still available on Preiser, which captures the fullness of Gurrelieder's sweep and grandeur. James McCracken sings with rich, round tone, but his interpretation seems merely perfunctory. Tatiana Troyanos brings conviction and warmth to the role of the Wood Dove, but it lies uncomfortably low for her voice. Werner Klemperer's narration is dramatic and deeply felt, giving the final sections a momentum that had previously been lacking. Jessye Norman turns in a remarkable performance, her velvety voice at ease and expressive, consistently full throughout the extravagantly wide range that Schoenberg requires. The sound of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus is distant and strained.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra
1 04:14
2 02:49
3 03:43
4 04:59
5 03:23
6 06:07
7 02:13
8 05:56
9 02:58
10 05:12
11 04:44
blue highlight denotes track pick