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Beethoven Challenge - My favourite Fidelio(s)

Winners


Beethoven
Fidelio Op.72
Martha Mödl, Wolfgang Windgassen, Otto Edelmann, Gottlob Frick, Sena Jurinac, Rudolf Schock, Alfred Poell
Wiener Staatsopernchor
Wiener Philharmoniker
Wilhelm Furtwängler
Naxos (1953/2005 Remastered Edition)



Beethoven
Fidelio Op.72
Christa Ludwig, Jon Vickers, Walter Berry, Gottlob Frick, Ingeborg Hallstein, Gerhard Unger, Franz Crass
Philharmonia Chorus & Orchestra
Otto Klemperer
Warner Classics (1961/2000 Remastered Edition)


Third position


Beethoven
Fidelio Op.72
Nina Stemme, Jonas Kauffman, Falk Struckmann, Christof Fischesser, Rachel Harnisch, Christoph Strehl, Peter Mattei
Arnold Schoenberg Chor
Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Lucerne Festival Orchestra
Claudio Abbado
Decca (2011)


Honourable mentions


Beethoven
Fidelio Op.72, Live recording
Aase Nordmo Løvberg, Wolfgang Windgassen, Hans Hotter, Walter Kreppel, Wilma Lipp, Murray Dickie, Otto Wiener
Chor und Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper
Herbert von Karajan
Andromeda (1960/2011 Remastered Edition)



Beethoven
Fidelio Op.72, Live recording
Birgit Nilsson, Jon Vickers, Hermann Uhde, Oskar Czerwenka, Laurel Hurley, Charles Anthony, Giorgio Tozzi
Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orchestra
Karl Böhm
Walhall (1960/2014 Remastered Edition)


Top 4-9 MONO
04: Karajan WStO 62
05: Karajan WPO 57
06: Furtwängler Salz 48
07: Böhm WStO 55
08: Jochum RAI 57
09: Karajan WStO 53

Top 6-15 STEREO
03: Karajan BPO
06: Barenboim SKB
07: Bernstein WPO
08: Fricsay BaySO
09: Masur LGO
10: Knappertsbusch BaySO
11: Solti CSO
12: Haitink SKD
13: Maazel WPO
14: Böhm SKD
15: Harnoncourt ChOE

Although it hasn't become a desert island work for me, there are plenty of good recordings here. The competition was strong both in mono and stereo, and I would see reasonable to buy any of the Top 8 Stereo recordings. The general impression in recordings was that many focused on bringing a stardom cast to the roles of Florestan, Leonore and Rocco, but usually left some considerations behind like Marzelline and Jaquino (the first characters to open the play) and more importantly, the orchestra. Many here failed to deliver a remarkable sound, especially the thin soundscapes of the Bernstein and Masur recordings.

[HR][/HR]
The 5 (+1) recordings listed here seemed very strong for me, with very different orchestras (Klemperer vs. Abbado) and singers (Vickers vs. Windgassen vs. Kauffman). That's all the summary of the challenge.

6th: Herbert von Karajan, Berliner Philharmoniker 1970

Once again I'm disoriented by the "artistic intentions" of Karajan. A kind of hit and miss, because in his studio Fidelio the miking is very prominent. The stereo acoustics in the voices turn out weird and distracting for headphones. It wasn't even going to make the shortlist. Saving the incomparable Vickers in Florestan, I find the singers fine. I do like Zoltán Kelemen in Don Pizarro. In orchestral qualities, it's a powerful Beethoven.

5th: Karl Böhm, Metropolitan Opera 1960

Fast conducting with excellent singers. Pleasing sound quality and also singers who nail their roles (no exception).

4th: Herbert von Karajan, Wiener Staatsoper 1960

Aase Nordmo Løvberg wins me as Leonore. The males are fine and the finale of Act I have a superb chorus. Windgassen's voice has grown too much for the character of Florestan. Excellent playing by the orchestra.

3rd: Claudio Ababdo, Lucerne Festival 2010

Incredible, clean orchestral sound that resembles HIP more than any other. Their biggest problem is to be compared with the best singers of the past in their prime, especially Kaufmann, who signs one of the best Florestans in discography. His aching voice resembles Vickers but he lacks ease in the notes in favour of a theatrical approach. Fischesser's Pizarro is quite good, but hard to like at first listen. And Stemme grows slowly in Leonore, shining more in the end than the rest of her colleages. The orchestral sound is very different, probably because of the updated edition.

2nd: Otto Klemperer, Philharmonia Orchestra 1961

One of the all-time favourites climbs to my top. The pace is really controversial: the overture seems really slow but once we get to the singing Klemperer suddenly digs deep and you forget about the tempo. This approach, for me, improves the dramatic side of the opera. The cast is rounded, with every part being covered fantastically, especially Pizarro (Berry) and Leonore (Ludwig). Pizarro does sound like a villain, and the prison chorus surrounds me. Then Vickers comes as Florestan and improves the recording. I am forced to give this recording a high mark despite my impression that the final scene of the opera sounds like an oratorio!

1st: Wilhelm Furtwängler, Wiener Philharmoniker 1953

Furtwängler is inspired this time, digging gold from the Wiener Philharmoniker. Rocco is brilliant and compelling in Frick. Mödl does sound like a child playing Leonore. Edelmann is the best Pizarro in mono. Windgassen has a fine style for Florestan, and his interpretation is ok for me. Too many Siegfrieds weigh on his legacy. The winning recording is in mono but with an excellent sound and singing quality.

[HR][/HR]
Sorry for posting this so late. It's been like 2 weeks since I finished it.

You can now answer gellio's question for Jacob's Leonore. I tried Blomstedt's recording and the composition was almost a no-go compared to Fidelio.. Excellent Dresden playing though.
 

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The Jacobs Leonore is sensational. It's my favorite recording of Leonore/Fidelio. Just sensational. I'll stick with Jacobs most of the time, and when I must have Fidelio I'll go with Karajan.

The problem with these 60s/70s conductors is Beethoven is not Wagner. Karajan got it right, IMO, where as Klemperer and Bohm are dreadful bores. No dramatic thrust, no tension - just overly slow tempos and overly beautified music.
 

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I kind of burned out on Fidelio. It was my first opera that I really pursued deeply. Have 26 on CD and 11 on DVD.
 

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The Jacobs Leonore is sensational. It's my favorite recording of Leonore/Fidelio. Just sensational. I'll stick with Jacobs most of the time, and when I must have Fidelio I'll go with Karajan.

The problem with these 60s/70s conductors is Beethoven is not Wagner. Karajan got it right, IMO, where as Klemperer and Bohm are dreadful bores. No dramatic thrust, no tension - just overly slow tempos and overly beautified music.
I agree, in part. The singing on the Klemperer is glorious, though and therefore that just about makes it essential for me. The most classical of Fidelios is the one conducted by Fricsay and the singing is decent, so that is a favourite of mine, but the one I like most of all is the Bernstein. Perfect in every way.

N.
 

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The Jacobs Leonore is sensational. It's my favorite recording of Leonore/Fidelio. Just sensational. I'll stick with Jacobs most of the time, and when I must have Fidelio I'll go with Karajan.

The problem with these 60s/70s conductors is Beethoven is not Wagner. Karajan got it right, IMO, where as Klemperer and Bohm are dreadful bores. No dramatic thrust, no tension - just overly slow tempos and overly beautified music.
The Karajan was my first recording of the opera, bought because I'd just seen Dernesch as Leonore in a Scottish Opera production, in which she was suberb. However when I switched from LP to CD, I bowed to popular opinion and bought the Klemperer. Well, to be honest, I was rather disappointed. It seemed to me far less dramatically exciting than the Karajan and actually I preferred Dernesch to Ludwig. It's still my favourite version of the opera.
 

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Discussion Starter · #48 ·
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No question in my mind that this Fidelio is the best all round on disc for the sheer drama and orchestral splendour. Some people have remarked on cuts but I can't find any on my discs.
 

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The Karajan was my first recording of the opera, bought because I'd just seen Dernesch as Leonore in a Scottish Opera production, in which she was suberb. However when I switched from LP to CD, I bowed to popular opinion and bought the Klemperer. Well, to be honest, I was rather disappointed. It seemed to me far less dramatically exciting than the Karajan and actually I preferred Dernesch to Ludwig. It's still my favourite version of the opera.
Up until a few months ago the only recording of Dernesch I knew was the Tristan with Vickers and it really put me off her. However, I listened to that Fidelio because you mentioned it here and I really enjoyed it. Dernesch was a great Leonore, but I wasn't totally convinced by Karajan's conducting (although it's better than the heavy pondering of Klemperer). I just about prefer Ludwig to Dernesch, but like Janowitz possibly even better and there's something about the Bernstein where everything comes together superbly. That's why my two favourites are his and Fricsay for a totally different take on the piece with a decent cast.

N.
 

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Up until a few months ago the only recording of Dernesch I knew was the Tristan with Vickers and it really put me off her. However, I listened to that Fidelio because you mentioned it here and I really enjoyed it. Dernesch was a great Leonore, but I wasn't totally convinced by Karajan's conducting (although it's better than the heavy pondering of Klemperer). I just about prefer Ludwig to Dernesch, but like Janowitz possibly even better and there's something about the Bernstein where everything comes together superbly. That's why my two favourites are his and Fricsay for a totally different take on the piece with a decent cast.

N.
I am glad to read your comments about the Bernstein as you have now piqued my interest in listening to the recording. I unwisely accepted the wisdom(?) that Janowitz was overparted for Leonore and that in toto the recording was somewhat less than the competition... So much for received wisdom!
 

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I am glad to read your comments about the Bernstein as you have now piqued my interest in listening to the recording. I unwisely accepted the wisdom(?) that Janowitz was overparted for Leonore and that in toto the recording was somewhat less than the competition... So much for received wisdom!
Watch the Bernstein Fidelio with Janowitz on DVD. It is awesome! I have the CD (a studio effort done in the weeks after the live performance as I recall) and I never listen to it. Rather I listen to mp3 ripped from the DVD because there is so much more emotion expressed in the live performance.
 

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Watch the Bernstein Fidelio with Janowitz on DVD. It is awesome! I have the CD (a studio effort done in the weeks after the live performance as I recall) and I never listen to it. Rather I listen to mp3 ripped from the DVD because there is so much more emotion expressed in the live performance.
Thank you for the recommendation.
 

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Granate - Even though they're 2 years, past, these are FINE recommendations, and fairly-comprehensive, about the attempts to record Fidelio! As a semi-aficionado of WF/Furtwangler, it's fine to see his ways, remembered. I've listened to Fricsay, and HIS recording is very-fine, also ... as are those of those, in differing ways ... of Bohm (with Nilsson), and maybe one of von Karajan's. SixFootScowl thinks he's "burned-out" on this, singular opera, but maybe he should listen to more of your recommendations, and/or those of others. Along the latter line (those of others) I could include the black-and-white video, from 1977/Orange Festival, with Vickers ... and Gundula Janowitz, with the younger Zubin Mehta, conducting. Ms. Janowitz is ESPECIALLY fine, and .. to me ... Jon Vickers almost never disappoints, in certain, crucial roles ... and this is ONE of them.
 

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I was intrigued by the various comments made about the Bernstein recording so I went to listen to it. It wasn't long before I started jumping around trying to figure out where it was so much better than others. All I can say is if that's what does it for you, great, but it doesn't for me. I ended up going back to listen to some of the Klemperer to 'cleanse the palate'.
 

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I agree, in part. The singing on the Klemperer is glorious, though and therefore that just about makes it essential for me. The most classical of Fidelios is the one conducted by Fricsay and the singing is decent, so that is a favourite of mine, but the one I like most of all is the Bernstein. Perfect in every way.

N.
Agree on the singing in the Klemperer. I like the Bernstein, too.
 
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