Kubelik: Wagner - Lohengrin (3 CD, FLAC)
Kubelik: Wagner - Lohengrin (3 CD, FLAC)

Orchestra: Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Rafael Kubelik
Composer: Richard Wagner
Audio CD
SPARS Code: A-D
Number of Discs: 3
Format: FLAC (image+cue)
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Size: 0.98 GB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

Lohengrin: James King
Elsa von Brabant: Gundula Janowitz
Heinrich der Vogler: Karl Ridderbusch
Fridrich von Telramund: Thomas Stewart
Ortrud: Gwyneth Jones
Der Heerrufer des Konigs: Gerd Nienstedt
Vier brabantische Edle: F.Lenz, W.Brokmeier, R.Grumbach, R.Kogel

01. Vorspiel
02. Act I, Scene 1 – HÖRt! Grafen, Edle, Freie Von Brabant!
03. Dank, KÖNig, Dir, Daß Du Zu Richten Kamst!
04. Scene 2 – Seht Hin! Sie Naht, Die Hart Beklagte!
05. Einsam In TrÜBen Tagen
06. Mich Irret Nicht Ihr TrÄUmerischer Mut
07. Wer Hier Im Gotteskampf Zu Streiten Kam
08. Nun Sei Bedankt, Mein Lieber Schwan!
09. Zum Kampf FÜR Eine Magd Zu Stehn
10. Welch Holde Wunder Muß Ich Sehen-
11. Nun HÖRet Mich Und Achtet Wohl
12. Mein Herr Und Gott, Nun Ruf’ Ich Dich
13. Durch Gottes Sieg Ist Jetzt Dein Leben Mein
14. Act Ii, Scene 1 – Einleitung
15. Erhebe Dich, Genossin Meiner Schmach!
16. Scene 1 Cont. – Du Wilde Seherin, Wie Willst Du Doch
17. Scene 2 – Euch LÜFten, Die Mein Klagen
18. Elsa!…Wer Ruft-
19. Entweihte GÖTter! Helft Jetzt Meiner Rache!
20. Wie Kann Ich Solche Huld Dir Lohnen
21. Scene 3 – Szenenmusik
22. In FrÜH’n Versammelt Uns Der Ruf
23. Des KÖNigs Wort Und Will’ Tu’ Ich Euch Kund
24. Scene 4 – Gesegnet Soll Sie Schreiten
25. ZurÜCk, Elsa! Nicht LÄNger Will Ich Dulden
26. Scene 5 – Heil! Heil Dem KÖNig!
27. O KÖNig! TrugbetÖRte FÜRsten! Haltet Ein!
28. Welch Ein Geheimnis Muß Der Held Bewahren-
29. Mein Held, Entgegne KÜHn Dem Ungetreuen!
30. Vorspiel
31. Scene 1 – Trelich GefÜHrt Ziechet Dahin
32. Scene 2 -Das SÜSse Lied Verhalt; Wir Sind Allein
33. Atmest Du Nicht Mit Mir Die SÜSsen DÜFte-
34. HÖChstes Vertraun Hast Du Mir Schon Zu Danken
35. Weh, Nun Ist All Unser GlÜCk Dahin!
36. Scene Iii – Szenenmusik – Heil, KÖNig Heinrich!
37. Habt Dank, Ihr Lieben Von Brabant!
38. Macht Platz Dem Helden Von Brabant!
39. In Fernem Land, Unnahbar Euren Schritten
40. Mir Schwankt Der Boden! Welche Nacht!
41. Mein Lieber Schwan!

A vintage Lohengrin with decided ups and downs, admirable mostly for its best singing

This 1971 Lohengrin remains in print in Germany, and it features a roster of DG’s most notable vocal stars from the mid-Karajan era, the two obvious omissions being Fischer-Dieskau (who had already recorded the role of Telramund for EMI) and Karajan himself (whose ill-fated Lohengrin for the same label would be his only Wagnerian flop). Among the versions I most value, this one doesn’t stand high, despite the stellar casting. The pluses and minuses of the four principals and conductor are evenly divided.

James King has a more powerful, heroically cast tenor than almost anyone else who recorded the part in the modern era, and we hear him in splendid voice – if only such a tenor could be singing the role today now that Heppner has retired from it (the Met has released a glorious souvenir of him and Deborah Voigt conducted by Levine) and Jonas Kaufmann seems to have moved on from the part. King was a stolid vocal actor. Here he does a good job sounding tender – more to the swan than to Elsa – yet after awhile his steady, even tone production, impressive as it is, becomes boring. Even without much characterization, however, King remains a major asset.

Gundula Janowitz had a voice that divided the critics, especially in her early years when she sounded so flutey as to verge on the inhuman, or angelic if you liked her tone. She easily encompasses the range of Elsa’s role, bringing out the character’s innocence. But it’s more a fairy-tale innocence than the quality of a real woman. I was never moved and would place her below leading rivals on the order of Studer, Grummer, and even Jessye Norman, although Norman couldn’t escape the hugeness of her sound.

Thomas Stewart was such a great singer that I regret having to say that he is miscast as Telramund. It’s possible to find a sympathetic side to the role, even though he’s the villain of the piece, but Stewart is every inch a Wotan. He’s too noble by half, and he compensates by singing at topvolume throughout Act I. At the outset of Act II, his scene with Ortrud sounds exactly like Wotan and Brunnhilde when what we need is two meanies plotting their revenge.

Gwyneth Jones had yet to sink into her phase of extreme wobble, and her soft singing as Ortrud is lovely (if, like Stewart, she’s too noble for the role). She’s a dramatic soprano in a part almost always given to dramatic mezzos, and set against an Elsa less other-worldly than Janowitz, Jones would sound too similar to the heroine. Here she’s very impressive and manages not to screech in Ortrud’s commanding invocation of the pagan gods in Act II.

Kubelik wasn’t to my mind a great conductor but like his Czech compatriot Karel Ancerl a very good one who could surpass himself on occasion. Here he doesn’t. Pace the admirers of this Lohengrin, the conducting lacks mystery and atmosphere. I rarely believed that we were in the domain of magic, much less grace. Kubelik’s pacing is alert and, as is usual with him, on the quick side. But he fails to energize the opera from the inside. Karajan also had strange lapses in his recording, and both fall behind Abbado, Solti, and Levine.

There’s little to note about the rest. Heinrich and the Herald are splendidly sung. The Bavarian Radio SO plays well but not with real distinction. The chorus is fine but isn’t encouraged to sound awestruck in the two miracle scenes at the beginning and end of the opera. The vintage analog sound is serviceable but needs remastering to soften the shrill trumpets and upper range frequencies in general. My four stars are a bit grudging, then, even though I now enjoy this recording more than I used to, thanks to the stretches of best singing.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for this very recording which has been underestimated by the critics. Kubelik wasn’t seen as a superstar conductor of Wagner but this Lohengrin and his recording of Parsifal reveal what a fine exponent of the composer he was.

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