Live recording in stereo from
Festspielhaus Bayreuth
Conductor: Wolfgang Sawallisch
König Heinrich Franz Crass
Lohengrin Jess Thomas
Elsa Anja Silja
Telramund Ramón Vinay
Ortrud Astrid Varnay
Der Heerrufer Tom Krause
Ein Edle Gerhard Stolze
Ein Edle Niels Möller
Ein Edle Klaus Kirchner
Ein Edle Zoltán Kelemen
Chor und Orchester der
Bayreuther Festspiele
Philips, 446 337-2 3 CDs ADD
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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.