It’s Gergiev 1 – Elektra 0 in this flawed live recording
In 1910, the Band of the Grenadier Guards serenaded Her Majesty with a selection from Elektra. (George V promptly sent down a message saying he didn’t know what it was that they had just played, but it was never to be played again!) Despite the royal vote of no confidence, the opera has become a modern classic and a classic of modernism, in which Strauss went further harmonically than he would ever again.
In this live 2010 recording, the LSO’s principal conductor shows not only that he appreciates Strauss’s daring orchestrations, but also that he’s a master of the dramatic pacing in Hofmannsthal’s gripping Sophocles adaptation. The members of the orchestra play their hearts out in a finely engineered recording that, thanks to Gergiev, is frequently revelatory.
Sadly, this recording has a massive drawback in the Elektra of Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet. A pronnounced vibrato across the entire range is the first problem to beset the ear. Coupled with a tendency to fall flat at the top or miss certain key notes altogether, her performance is a bit of a roadcrash. The rest of the cast ranges from superb (Dame Felicity Palmer’s baleful Clytemnestra steals the show) to acceptable (Angela Denoke’s Chrysothemis and Matthias Goerne’s resonant Orestes). Ian Storey brings up the rear with an unremarkable Aegisthius. Worth it for Gergiev? Maybe.
This article appeared in the August, 2012 issue of Limelight Magazine.
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