Studio recording in stereo
November 23, 1962 - April 3, 1963
Conductor: Rudolf Kempe
König Heinrich Gottlob Frick
Lohengrin Jess Thomas
Elsa Elisabeth Grümmer
Telramund Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Ortrud Christa Ludwig
Der Heerrufer Otto Wiener
Ein Edle ?
Ein Edle ?
Ein Edle ?
Ein Edle ?
Wiener Philharmoniker
Chor der Wiener Staatsoper
EMI, CMS 5 67415 2 3 CDs ADD
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Review by Scott Grunow

Kempe's is still the best Lohengrin even after more than 30 years. With the shimmering sound of the Vienna strings, Kempe's masterful conducting and the most consistent cast, listening is still a sublime experience. Kempe never rushes the climax in the Prelude; the ensemble at the end of Act I builds to an exaltation that leaps out the speakers, while his control in the long ensemble at the end of Act II, with his subtle highlighting of the theme of Ortrud's machinations, is truly phenomenal.

And the cast in today's dearth of natural-born Wagnerians is a dream. The late Elisabeth Grümmer was the Elsa and Elisabeth of her generation; her voice is pure, yet soars effortlessly over the heaviest ensemble passages. And Ludwig in one of her best roles actually manages to keep her beauty of tone despite the character's malevolence, the higher passages holding little strain for her. Though Fischer-Dieskau's voice is lightweight for the murderous part of Telramund, he displays his usual intelligence and temperament. Frick is suitably grave and authoritarian. The only drawback is the performance of Jess Thomas in the title role. Though his tone is firm, clear and ringing, he makes little of the text even though his line is generally smooth, and his great moment, "In fernem land", makes its message known, especially with Kempe's marvelous conducting.

The Vienna Staatsoper Chorus under the direction of Richard Rossmayer sings with superb line and control. My advice to Wagnerians: if you must have only one recording of Lohengrin, obtain this one. You may even be able to glimpse the Grail on the top of Monsalvat.