- Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra
Arnold Schoenberg: Gurre-Lieder
Schoenberg's "Gurrelieder" grew as he composed it. First conceived as a song cycle with piano accompaniment, it was premiered a decade later as a cantata for soloists, chorus, and enormous orchestra. It was also a passionately romantic young man's work finished by a fanatically modernist mature man and as the composer grew older, the composition got better in some ways and worse in others. Whether "Gurrelieder" ought to have grown into a cantata is arguable. The pointillistic orchestrations of the mature man are an improvement over the impressionistic orchestrations of the young man. But the passionate excess of the young man sounds dated when uttered by the mature man and Schoenberg's "Gurrelieder" can be a little too overwrought and a bit too overwhelming to be believed. Robert Craft believes. Craft knew Schoenberg in the late '40s and he has championed his music as a conductor and writer ever since. This 2001 recording is Craft's first "Gurrelieder" and he clearly loves the work. He lets the young composer sing in the work's surging lyricism and he lets the mature composer wail in the work's passionate excesses. Unfortunately, the singers also wail to excess. Stephen O'Mara is strong but sometimes not completely in control, and Melanie Diener is powerful but too often not altogether in tune. Ernst Haefliger is a mellifluous speaker, the Philharmonia Orchestra is a magnificent instrument, and the Simon Joly Chorale is a gargantuan ensemble. Naxos' digital sound is enormous and all-enveloping.
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