Review by Constantijn Blondel|
When one talks about Lohengrin recordings one usually talks about Kempe's
60's recording, and justly so. There is one recording though that I haven't
heard mention, but which in my opinion wins on several fronts from Kempe.
This is the Bayreuth 1962 recording with Wolfgang Sawallisch conducting.
The overlap between these two consists of Jess Thomas; in both recordings
he sings Lohengrin. He is for both sets equally committed to the title role,
but for Sawallisch he compensates a slightly less beautiful tone with the
excitement of listening to his live performance.
The main weak link in Kempe's set is in my opinion Elisabeth Grümmer's
Elsa. You can hear that she once possesed a beautiful voice but on the
Kempe recording she sings with so much uncontrolled vibrato that it becomes
unpleasant for me to listen to. On the Sawallisch set Elsa is sung by Anja
Silja. I personally think she was born for these kind of roles (meaning
Elsa, Elisabeth, Freia, Senta, maybe Eva) and her voice is fresh and
beautiful to listen to. She also seems to understand the part very well,
since she moves from chaste obedience to curiosity to despairing terror
in Act III. A splendid performance, and much much better than her
counterpart on Kempe.
On Sawallisch Ortrud and Friedrich are sung by Astrid Varnay and Ramón
Vinay. They are different than their Kempe counterparts (Christa Ludwig
and Dietrich Fischer-Diskau) but the singing is from all of them excellent.
Astrid Varnay 'brings real vitriole to the role' (quoth the booklet) and
Ramón Vinay portrays Friedrich as a knight swept between his code of honour
and Ortrud. Franz Crass is König Heinrich and slightly better then Gottlob
Frick. Tom Kause is der Heerrufer, and gives a solid performance.
Sawallisch's conducting is as usual, solid and good, but not particularly
splendid. Kempe's conducting is magical in this sense. The Bayreuth chorus
is better then the Vienna State opera chorus, but The Wiener Philharmoniker
is better then the Bayreuth orchestra. The recording of the Bayreuth
accoustics are generally good though the woodwind is recorded somewhat
soft, but that is a commonly known Bayreuth problem. If I might give you
an advice...just buy both sets, but if you only have money for one, I'd
buy the Sawallisch set.