Lovro von Matacic

Wagner: Lohengrin

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Slovenian conductor Lorvo von Matacic made his Bayreuth debut with this 1959 performance of Lohengrin. Critics at the time were consistent in their praise of what one called his "nobility of style from start to finish," but when the performance was issued in 2006 by the Bavarian Orfeo label, it was hard to hear nobility in Matacic's interpretation. Although there are pages of pure bliss -- the Prelude is especially luminous -- most of the rest of Matacic's performance sounds rash and reckless. An intermittently respectful accompanist, Matacic exaggerates contrasts and dynamics, pushes and pulls tempos, and, worst of all, focuses entirely too much attention on the often ragged and out-of-tune brass section. The result is a performance that comes too close to nervous collapse to really be enjoyable.

Likewise, critics at the time were uniform in their praise of Matacic's cast. Hungarian tenor Sándor Kónya in the title role was said to have a "wonderfully lyrical bel canto voice," while German soprano Elisabeth Grümmer as Elsa was supposed to be "entirely filled with womanly inwardness," but in 2006 it was similarly hard to hear these qualities in their performances. Kónya sounds blustery when loud, weedy when quiet, and the catch in his voice at climaxes sounds less bel canto than pure schmaltz. Grümmer sounds screechy when loud, whiney when quiet and the tear in her voice in intimate passages sounds less lyrical than pure schlock. With reckless conducting coupled with feckless singing captured in dim, gray sound, this release will probably be of interest only to those who have to hear every release of every performance from Bayreuth.

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