Oh yes! How could I have forgotten the superb Klemperer live at Covent Garden?! I had not imagined that you would tolerate the sound though, Parla.
Another fine performance is Böhm, live at the Bayerische Staatsoper (Orfeo) - the last time he conducted Fidelio. Behrens a superb Leonore.
We are truly lucky with Fidelio recordings!
Hmmm...I'm still hesitating. I've not always found Abbado very convincing in Beethoven - a bit soft-edged. The Klemperer I have already so I thought a newer version might be an idea, with one eye all the time on the elderly Fricsay version.
Prompted by your posts, Adrian, I've just spent an afternoon sampling extensively from various versions, courtesy of those on my shelves and via Spotify. I was less impressed with Bernstein than I remember being. The recording, whilst good, gives undue prominence to the solo voices in my opinion, and I had forgotten the extent to which Bernstein had already surrendered to his tendency to linger lovingly. It's not quite the equivalent of his Elgar, but I always think the piece needs a sense of flow and that, to me, is provided by Abbado (and others). The sound that Kollo makes, especially in his big scene is, frankly, unpleasant in places.
The Halasz is a very fine performance indeed, and well worth acquiring at such a reasonable price (I assume it's still available), and I find the soloists are all very well matched in ensembles. Winbergh was an interesting but underrated singer, I always thought.
I think the Masur, which I have on Philips, is now out on Sony and is the one I play more than any other, though again, I've always enjoyed Masur, so may be somewhat prejudiced. It's also got Siegfried Jerusalem, another of my all-time favourites.
If you have the Klemperer, then the Abbado would be a superb alternative in my opinion. Kauffman could have been born to sing Florestan, Stemme is very impressive indeed, and all the minor roles are well and characterfully sung. Recording is superb.
Thank you very much, JKH: I will add the Abbado to my Wish List.
Adrian, it was certainly my pleasure - what else could an afternoon of listening to this masterwork possibly be? Let us know what you think when you get the Abbado.
Oh dear Adrian, look what you've started. Pondering on yesterday's Fidelio listening, I realised I hadn't had quite enough and have just been playing a variety of sopranos in Leonore's big scene and aria. Leontyne Price, Frida Leider, Lotte Lehmann, Jeannine Altmeyer and Rita Hunter. Needless to say given the names, all had something special to offer in their own way, but I have to say that for an all rounfd combination of voice, believability and vulnerability (a quality I think the role demands) the great Frida Leider was possibly the star of the afternoon.
And it was a timely reminder - if reminder be needed - of what a superb voice Rita Hunter possessed.
What about Birgit Nilsson, JKH? I know she didn't have the chance to have a full cast recording of the work, except, maybe, for the latest release of Sony from MET, with Karl Bohm. The cast looks better than her Decca recording with Maazel. Vickers (too young), Unde, Tozzi, Czerwenka. I understand the recording is in clean mono sound.
For me, she was the great and full voice and truly exciting Leonora.
What about Birgit Nilsson, JKH? I know she didn't have the chance to have a full cast recording of the work, except, maybe, for the latest release of Sony from MET, with Karl Bohm.
I don't undesrtand what you are trying to say. The Maazel is a 'full cast' recording, as is the one she recorded in the 50s under Kleiber. Are you trying to say that it wasn't a very good cast? Bohme, McCracken and Krause are hardly slouches.
The Met performance has been around for some time on various labels and is, indeed, in fairly decent mono sound. It has the great virtue of having the superb Hermann Uhde and Bohm (just as he does in The Ring) gets a move on.
Nilsson's voice is, of course, a wonder and in any of her performances is nothing less than impressive. But as I say, I think a Leonore needs to have some degree of vulnerability and Nilsson, to me, impressive though she unquestionably is, has the vulnerability of a Panzer tank.
I completely agree with you JKH. Wonderful singer though Nilsson was, she didn't 'do' vulnerability. I still find Rysanek (Fricsay) the most moving amongst all the complete recordings I know. Interestingly (according to Jon Vickers' biographer), Walter Legge's first choice for the role of Leonore in Klemperer's recording was....... Nilsson!
Just thought I'd mention a couple of the available dvds. The Bernstein with Janowitz and Kollo is very fine. If Janowitz can tend to sound a bit homogenised on record she more than compensates with her acting here. Lenny is Lenny, love him or hate him
Fine singing in the Met version, although some don't think Mattila has the necessary vocal weight. Vocal weight is no problem for Heppner, but physical weight certainly is. Certainly many stars in many operatic roles call for some suspension of belief but this is just a bridge too far.
So, maybe Walter Legge had a similar thought about the vocal wonder of Nilsson's amazing voice and neglected the "vulnerability" thing.
The Maazel set has almost always and almost everywhere I have been criticised about McCracken's uneven performance and "awkward" voice. Maazel conducting was sometimes a big ambivalent point.
Anyway, Nilsson was "big" sometimes even for Wagner. I hope, one day, a voice like this may emerge again.
Tagalie, I don't have a DVD version (and haven't seen either of the versions you mention) but have been thinking of the Harnoncourt/Zurich version, mainly because of Kauffman, I must admit. Have you seen it? If so, what did you think? I agree that Heppner is certainly a tad less than credible as a supposedly starving, incarcerated political prisoner
Parla, I haven't read any reviews of the Maazel, I just listen to it and make up my own mind. Maazel's conducting does tend to be excessively emphatic at times, but overall I like his handling of the score. The recording is an 'interventionist' job from Decca, typical for the period (I assume in the Sofiensaal?) which doesn't suit all tastes, but it does mine. McCracken wasn't to all tastes either, but I've always liked his voice which was more than equal to the role. Interpretively (apart perhaps from his initial forte entrance at the start of his big Act 2 scene) I think he's very convincing.
I'd say anyone waiting for another Nilsson shouldn't indulge in any breath-holding. She was unique. And that's not to say that I have joined the 'modern singers will never be as good as the greats of yesteryear' school. Just as there hasn't been a singer like Nilsson since her day, neither were there too many before it.
We have better Handel and Mozartian singers now then at anytime in the last 150 years.
Tagalie, I don't have a DVD version (and haven't seen either of the versions you mention) but have been thinking of the Harnoncourt/Zurich version, mainly because of Kauffman, I must admit. Have you seen it? If so, what did you think?
I haven't seen it, JKH. There are two good reviews on Amazon.uk one by Scott Morrison who, if I don't always agree with him, certainly knows his opera and generally offers a balanced viewpoint. This was his first exposure to Kauffman and he was bowled over, as was the other reviewer. Interesting to read these initial impressions of a singer who is now very much in the ascendancy and beginning to experience what the Aussies so fittingly call, 'the tall poppy syndrome'.
There's also a Bohm with Gwyneth Jones in fine voice, but it's lip-synched.
For me, you don't have to listen very far into a Fidelio recording to figure out if it's worth being bothered with. You fast forward to the marching rhythm of the Prisoners' Chorus. You'd think that all the distinguished Fidelio conductors know how that should go. And Furtwangler, Klemperer, Bohm are not troubled by it. But Maazel, and Masur in particular, fail at the hurdle.
After that, it is only a choice of which singers you prefer.
The test always makes me think of something Walter Legge said about finding a suitable conductor for his operetta series. Not entirely sure how it was put but words to the effect that you'd find more conductors who'd know how to conduct a Mahler symphony than could negotiate waltzes, marches and polkas.
Many thanks, Tagalie. I've just taken a punt and ordered the Zurich. I'll let you know how it goes.