Philip Langridge / Franz Mazura / Georg Solti

Schoenberg: Moses und Aron

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The performers on this recording, whom Georg Solti instructed, "Please play and sing as if you were performing Brahms!" clearly took his directions to heart. This performance is characterized by the kind of passion, and occasional frenzy, Schoenberg had in mind -- in this incarnation, the opera could never be taken as an academic exercise in serialism. A large part of the credit goes to Solti, who discovers the dramatic contours within the musical phrases and delivers a shapely and nuanced reading. The opera's punch is heightened by the composer's brilliantly colorful and evocative orchestration, which creates a drama of its own, and the Chicago Symphony plays with considerable heat without sacrificing precision. Whether or not Schoenberg's harmonic language is to a listener's personal taste, it would be hard not to get caught up in the visceral energy of the performance. The chorus is really the star of the opera, and the Chicago Symphony Chorus, directed by the legendary Margaret Hillis, sings the grueling music with the apparent ease and naturalness one would expect in a performance of a tonal piece. In the dramatically challenging role of Moses, Franz Mazura delivers the Sprechstimme lines with real authority and power. Tenor Philip Langridge's voice is not always tonally beautiful -- the upper register can sound strained -- but he sings with passion and understanding, and his Aron is a strong dramatic foil to Mazura's stern Moses. Soprano Barbara Bonney and bass Aage Haugland bring a sheen of bel canto polish to their relatively small roles. Decca's sound, in this reissue of a 1984 release, is warm and dramatically realistic.

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