Review by: Robert Levine
Artistic Quality: 9
Sound Quality: 9
This surprise entry into the by-now crowded Elektra discography deserves attention. Recorded live in Amsterdam during October, 2011, it’s a tight, wiry show, driving Strauss’ phenomenal score to its inevitable conclusion like a thoroughbred. The peaceful interlude of the Recognition Scene rarely has seemed so poignant, so necessary, so earned by Elektra, who, of course we know, still has some trouble ahead of her. The Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra is led by Marc Albrecht, the newly appointed head of the Netherlands Opera, and it bodes well for that institution: he’s thrilling and in control, and while he holds nothing back, he doesn’t try to drown the singers in sound. (The fine recording helps tremendously, but one can tell.) The performance picks us up and will not let go—it’s a tidal wave of convulsions.
In the title role, Evelyn Herlitzius begins with one or three slightly wavering tones (I assume sopranos don’t warm up much before this role) but is at full throttle by the end of her monologue; she gains in strength and subtlety as she goes along and paints a portrait of a woman so obsessed that she’s frightening (Albrecht’s refusal to let her rest does wonders for the loony quality). Her initial interview with Chrysothemis is tinged with nastiness; she’s horrifically sarcastic with Klytemnestra; she is pleading and seems almost to convince her sister in their second scene, and so lovely and helpless with Orest that she’s heartbreaking. Her high C at the end of Klytemnestra scene is laser-like in its intensity, and her diction throughout is superb. Forget about the occasional imperfect note.
Camilla Nylund, hardly a small-voiced Chrysothemis, has a brilliant, easy top and a nice, human way about her predicament—a perfect foil for Elektra. Manuela Schuster sings every note of Klytemnestra’s music, and we can feel her confidence and arrogance slip until what she (wrongly) thinks is a victory; her laugh, as she leaves the scene, is up there with Regina Resnik’s on Decca under Solti. Gerd Grochowski’s Orest is strong yet loving and warm, and Hubert Delamboye is a finely drunken Aegisth. The maids are a bunch of nasty Valkyries.
This is among a bevy of fine recordings of this work on CD: the Nilsson/Solti on Decca must take first place, but Jochum leading the crazed Erna Schlüter on Acanta (from 1944) is dynamite, and the Borkh/Böhm still thrills. But this one will not disappoint.
Buy Now from Arkiv Music
Recording Details:Reference Recording: Solti/Nilsson (Decca); Jochum/Schlüter (Acanta)
- STRAUSS, RICHARD:Elektra