Berg - Lulu
Paris Opéra Orchestra / Pierre Boulez
DG 463 617-2GOR3 Buy now
(172’ · ADD · S/T/t)
Teresa Stratas sop Lulu; Franz Mazura bar Dr Schön, Jack; Kenneth Riegel ten Alwa; Yvonne Minton mez Countess Geschwitz; Robert Tear ten The Painter, A Negro; Toni Blankenheim bar Schigolch, Professor of Medicine, The Police Officer; Gerd Nienstedt bass An Animal-tamer, Rodrigo; Helmut Pampuch ten The Prince, The Manservant, The Marquis; Jules Bastin bass The Theatre Manager, The Banker; Hanna Schwarz mez A Dresser in the Theatre, High School Boy, A Groom; Jane Manning sop A 15-year-old Girl; Ursula Boese mez Her Mother; Anna Ringart mez A Lady Artist; Claude Meloni bar A Journalist; Pierre-Yves Le‑Maigat bass A Manservant
This is a masterpiece that fulfils all the requirements for a commercial smash hit – it’s sexy, violent, cunning, sophisticated, hopelessly complicated and emotionally draining. The meaningful but gloriously over-the-top story-line, after two tragedies by Frank Wedekind, deserves acknowledgement, but what matters is that Berg’s music is magnificent, Romantic enough to engage the passions of listeners normally repelled by 12-tone music, and cerebral enough to keep eggheads fully employed.
It’s opulent yet subtle (saxophone and piano lend the score a hint of jazz-tinted decadence), with countless telling thematic inter-relations and much vivid tonal character-painting. Berg left it incomplete (he orchestrated only 390 of the third act’s 1326 bars), but Friedrich Cerha’s painstaking reconstruction is a major achievement, especially considering the complicated web of Berg’s musical tapestry. This recording first opened our ears to the ‘real’ Lulu in 1979.
The performance is highly distinguished. Teresa Stratas is an insinuating yet vulnerable Lulu, Yvonne Minton a sensuous Countess Geschwitz and Robert Tear an ardent Painter. Dr Schön is tellingly portrayed by Franz Mazura, Kenneth Riegel is highly creditable as Schön’s son and that Boulez himself is both watchful of detail and responsive to the drama hardly needs saying. It’s not an easy listen, but it’ll keep you on your toes for a stimulating, even exasperating evening.