Many thanks to our friend Jean-Luc for this gem
This studio recording of Elektra is valuable on many counts, but most importantly, it preserves Inge Borkh’s legendary interpretation of the role in good sound and likewise documents the conducting of Karl Böhm, a personal friend of Richard Strauss’s who attended the composer’s own rehearsals of this same opera in his youth. It is difficult to name any Elektra set a “benchmark” or “recording of reference,” but suffice it to say that this one should be in the library of anyone who enjoys this opera — and it would make a perfectly good introduction, as well.
# Composer: Richard Strauss
# Performer: Inge Borkh, Jean Madeira, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
# Orchestra – Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden
# Conductor – Karl Böhm
# Vinyl (1960)
# Number of Discs: 2
# Format: Flac
# Label: DGG
# DR-Analysis: DR: 11
# Size: 1.04 GB
# Scan: yes
# Server: FileFactory
The vocal side of the recording is strong throughout, with Inge Borkh’s eponymous heroine being the highlight (as is proper). Like everyone else who has sung this role, Borkh has her detractors, but frankly, I cannot imagine why. Her high notes are laser-precise, free of strain and the swooping portamenti that many singers require to achieve such altitude. Her vibrato is under the kind of sovereign control that is rare in any singer, especially a dramatic singer in such a difficult role. She is a pleasure to listen to: light and almost youthful, she is not an overwhelming presence by any stretch, but a real woman who is both fragile and incredibly driven. She is never over the top, but neither is she excessively restrained. I think those who sample her performance after Nilsson’s might be underwhelmed, but give it some time — this is a subtle and beautifully sung interpretation of a role that can very easily descend into histrionics in the wrong hands.
The rest of the singers are all at least perfectly fine; there’s no weak link. Aside from Borkh’s Elektra, I am especially taken with Madeira’s excellent and genuinely scary Klytaemnestra and Fischer-Dieskau’s Orest, to which he brings his usual intelligence and a warm, rich tone (not something he always boasted in his operatic recordings). Little love is lost over Fritz Uhl’s work as Tristan for Solti, but he is a good and characterful Aegisth here. He was only in his early thirties when the recording was made, and so unlike the has-been heldentenoren often cast in this small role, he is quite frighteningly audible in his murder scene.
Of course, as so often in Strauss, the orchestra is as important as any character, and Böhm’s Dresden forces have the idiomatic excellence one would expect from their historical association with the composer. Quite contrary to the usual stereotype of the mid-century German conductor slightly tainted by association with Nazism, Böhm is a light, dynamic, swift, and flexible leader (as is the case with his Wagner recordings, as well). This is a furious, complex, and tightly-coiled score, and Bohm is ideally suited to its demands. Never bombastic or unremittingly loud, he allows the great orchestral outbursts to bloom, but shows great sensitivity to the singers as well. Listen, for instance, to the climax of the “recognition scene”: most conductors cue the fortissimo orchestral chord simultaneously with Elektra’s first cry of “Orest,” thus inevitably drowning her out for a moment. Böhm lets Borkh’s high note soar for a surprisingly long time, only then bringing in the Staatskapelle with overwhelming force. This very small choice is extremely effective, and typical of Böhm’s intelligently thrilling approach to the score. This set contains a short essay by the conductor about his relationship with Strauss and his thoughts on making the recording, which clearly shows that DG was aware of the value of his interpretation. It makes for a better read than the average liner notes.
Finally, the recorded sound is fine, particularly for the time, with a real analogue warmth and crackle. It cannot match the superlative vividness of, say, Sinopoli’s modern recording, but everything is captured well, with minimum distortion. Böhm unabashedly makes the standard performance cuts, which is perhaps the only thing preventing me from calling this the obvious recording of reference (well, that and the high quality of some other sets). These are traditional and condoned by the composer, though, so don’t let the cuts spoil your enjoyment of this tremendously exciting performance.
Analyzed folder: /96k(Mono) Strauss – Elektra – Boehm
DR Peak RMS Filename
DR11 -0.00 dB -15.68 dB sideA.wav
DR12 -0.31 dB -17.29 dB sideB.wav
DR10 -0.77 dB -15.30 dB sideC.wav
DR10 -0.16 dB -14.09 dB sideD.wav
Number of files: 4
Official DR value: DR11
- RCM: Okki Nokki (L’art du son, Clearaudio’s Diamond Cleaner)
- TT: Vintage (1982) Yamaha PX-3
Cartridge: Sumiko Black Bird
- Cartridge: ZYX 50R Bloom
- Phono amp: Pro-Ject Phono Box RS
- ADC/DAC: RME Fireface UC
- Pre Amp: Große Vorstufe, Erste Frankfurter Röhrenmanufaktur (Tube)
- Finals: Opera Consonance 9.9 Mono (Tube)
- Speakers: Dali Helikon 400
- Connections: MIT Terminator, Audioquest Emerald, Audioquest Quartz
If You hear some clicks and pops here and there, Who cares?
Id rather have a few light anomalies instead of destroying the music.
Enjoy the music, not the ticks & pops.
I tend more and more, in the last time, to de-click with an automatic setting between 0.7 and 1.2 so you can say, my rips are like half rough rips.
- Software: iZotope RX 4 Advanced, Adobe Audition CS 5.5, Twisted Wave 1.9
- Very light de-clicking with iZotope, significant clicks manually removing, no de-noising
- DR-Analisys before converting to Flac
- Converting Wave -> Flac: Twisted Wave 1.9
- Artwork: Sony Alpha 350, Epson Perfection V750 Pro, Photoshop CS 5.5
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