Rudolf Kempe

Strauss: Elektra

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While the harsh, gray, and cramped sound here assuredly makes this a recording that only a lover of Elektra could love, those who do love Strauss' most emotionally extreme opera will indeed love this recording. Taken from a live performance given at the Covent Garden Royal Opera House on May 29, 1958, this two-disc set features soprano Gerda Lammers' only recording of the title role and conductor Rudolf Kempe's only recording of the opera. And both are fascinating additions to the catalog. A singer best remembered for her work at the Kassel Opera between 1955 and 1968, this Elektra was Lammers' first appearance in England -- and she blew the audience and critics away. Though not as polished as Birgit Nilsson or as passionate as Inge Borkh, Lammers reveals both tremendous strength and terrific acting ability in her depiction of the deranged title character. Even more significant is the addition of Kempe's Elektra to his discography. Best remembered for his EMI recording of Strauss' complete orchestral works, his Elektra is amazingly clear, astonishingly detailed, astoundingly flexible, and intensely dramatic. With the tender Hedwig Müller-Bütow as Chrysothemis and the demonic Georgine von Milinkovic as Klytämnestra in tow, this is Elektra unrelentingly drives to its savage climax, and while much of the detail goes by the wayside thanks to the antique sound, the final effect will overwhelm anyone who loves the work.

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