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Profil are proud to present a recording of Wagner’s romantic three act opera with a stunning cast, recorded on superb SACD sound quality. Through its plot and such familiar music as the Bridal Chorus and the Act III Prelude, Lohengrin is one the most accessible of all Wagner operas. The performers, conducted by Semyon Bychkov will join forces with the the Royal Opera Chorus and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in April to perform Lohengrin at the Royal Opera House.
“The studio atmosphere means that there are no obvious theatrical effects… But Semyon Bychkov's impassioned conducting ensures that there's no serious loss of theatricality; and even in ordinary stereo the big ensembles sound immensely imposing (the end of Act 2 overwhelming)... Although none of the cast surpasses the work's best exponents elsewhere, all are well worth hearing. Not the best Lohengrin ever then, but its good to have such a well characterised and sumptuously recorded new version.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2009
“This is a gloriously played and sung account of Wagner's first unqualified masterpiece...Semyon Bychkov's handling of the huge score takes pride of place on these discs, for its dramatic sweep and power, the delicacy and finesse with which the more lyrical passages are teased out, and for the superlative performances he extracts from the Cologne Radio Orchestra and its chorus...You have to go back quite a few years to find a new Lohengrin as accomplished as this on disc.” The Guardian, 15th May 2009
“This recording of Semyon Bychkov's slow-burning interpretation is a gift...the cast sings intelligently and subtly, while the orchestral performance combines gravity, ethereality and immaculate chording.” The Independent on Sunday, 10th May 2009
“For the magnificent choral singing — the joint North and West German Radio choirs and the Prague Chamber Choir — and orchestral playing alone, this studio version of Wagner’s great “romantic opera” ranks with the best released on disc.” Sunday Times, 26th April 2009 ****
“Semyon Bychkov conducts a robustly powerful yet airily textured performance, keenly dramatic yet finely detailed. His Cologne orchestra and various choruses, focused and involved, sound tremendous in surround-sound, and his cast is similarly strong. Johan Botha's clear, bright tone and unforced power embody the title role splendidly...” BBC Music Magazine, July 2009 *****
“Bychkov's study of the score is evident from the start of the Prelude, voiced as Wagner's own programme notes suggest...Pieczonka has all of Elsa's strangeness, her misapprehension, her doubts and her naivety...Botha sings and phrases the music beautifully.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2010
“As a studio recording, this new Profil release can claim a degree of rarity value. Also rare is its inclusion of a segment of Lohengrin's 'In fernem Land' monologue which Wagner cut at the time of the premiere, though this has previously appeared in two of the best earlier recordings (from Leinsdorf and Barenboim – see below).
The studio atmosphere means that there are no obvious theatrical effects: no thumps and bumps during fights, for example. But Semyon Bychkov's impassioned conducting ensures that there's no serious loss of theatricality; and even in ordinary stereo the big ensembles sound immensely imposing (the end of Act 2 overwhelming), which compensates to a degree for a wide dynamic range that makes it difficult to set a single suitable volume level throughout.
It can be argued that Wagner never settled on a definitive version of Act 3. He was surely right to cut the anticlimactic episode after Lohengrin reveals his and his father's names, but despite its inclusion here, Profil has failed to include the text in a libretto whose usefulness is already compromised by not having German, French and English in parallel, as well as by a fusty English translation.
Fortunately, there are many positive factors too. Bychkov's reading is admirable, with only occasional exaggerations (including slowing up towards the end of the Act 1 Prayer). Although none of the cast surpasses the work's best exponents elsewhere, all are well worth hearing.
Johan Botha is ardent and mellifluous, lacking only that finely spun, silvery thread of tone that distinguished Jess Thomas in the role; nor does Petra Lang – for all her sensitivity to the text – quite set the stage ablaze as Astrid Varnay did.
Adrianne Pieczonka is occasionally shrill in more strenuous passages, but there's an attractive tonal brightness that brings extra weight to her Elsa. Underpinning it all are the excellent Cologne forces, with Bychkov in the Act 1 Prelude conveying the 'awesome sweetness' that has to be brought to life if the drama is to work its magic. Not the best Lohengrin ever then, but it's good to have such a well characterised and sumptuously recorded new version.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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Falk Struckmann (Amfortas), Klaus Florian Vogt (Parsifal), Ante Jerkunica (Titurel), Robert Holl (Gurnemanz), Krister St. Hill (Klingsor), Katarina Dalayman (Kundry), Brenden Gunnell (Erster Gralsritter), Thilo Dahlmann (Zweiter Gralsritter), Julia Westendorp (Erster Knappe), Cécile van de Sant (Zweiter Knappe), Jeroen de Vaal (Dritter Knappe), Pascal Pittie (Vierter Knappe) & Anna Stephany (Eine Stimme von oben)
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Choir & State Male Choir "Latvija", Jaap van Zweden
This live recording of Wagner’s opera Parsifal comes from a memorable concert that took place in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam in December 2010. It is performed by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Choir and conductor Jaap van Zweden. The cast includes tenor Klaus Florian Vogt in the title role, celebrated bass Robert Holl as Gurnemanz, bassbaritone Falk Struckmann as Amfortas, and soprano Katarina Dalayman as Kundry. The set also includes a bonus DVD featuring video footage of highlights from the performance.
Although first conceived in 1857, Parsifal ended up being Wagner’s last opera production at Bayreuth in 1882. The story is loosely based on the legend of the Arthurian knight Sir Percival and his quest for the Holy Grail.
Born in Amsterdam in 1960, Jaap Van Zweden began his musical career as a violinist, becoming at 19 the youngest ever concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
In 1997, van Zweden made the decision to conduct full time, and was named the chief conductor of the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra where he remained until 2003. In 2000, he added the music directorship of the Residentie Orchestra of The Hague to his credits, a post he held until 2005. Jaap van Zweden began his third season as music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra last year. His commitment to the orchestra was recently extended through the 2015-16 season.
“[the] string playing in the Act III prelude is world-class in its depth of beauty of tone and emotional intensity...the Dutchman Robert Holl is probably the great Gurnemanz of our time, declaiming every word with feeling and singing gloriously for a man with a 40-year career behind him. Kundry is probably Katarina Dalayman’s most congenial Wagner role, feminine and voluptuous but with a high C to make you sit up in your seat.” Sunday Times, 7th August 2011 ****
“This new recording of Wagner's last work is in most respects very fine...Perhaps the main glory here is the superb playing of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. It responds to every demand of the score, under the inspiring baton of Jaap van Zweden, who seems to be the ideal man to conduct this incredible score...He has a mainly good set of soloists, with the veteran Robert Holl as a strong, moving Gurnemanz” BBC Music Magazine, November 2011 ****
“It's hard to describe this live recording without descending into hyperbole...Jaap van Zweden retains magisterial control over the epic sweep of the piece. A uniformly excellent cast are on top form too: Klaus Florian Vogt (Parsifal) is powerful, shining and easy of voice, and he's matched by Katarina Dalayman (Kundry) on fiery form and the superb Robert Holl (Gurnemanz). Wagner performances don't often come more intense, epic or beautiful than this” Classic FM Magazine, November 2011 *****
“It's obvious that [van Zweden] has consciously opted to play down the story's pomp and stress the piety...We get playing of amazing warmth - a soothing bath of sound that implies godliness, devotion and tranquillity...[Holl's Gurnemanz] is a wonder of wisdom and insights...[Dalayman's] Kundry is a towering performance. Falk Struckmann's Amfortas is a truly damaged soul, his anguish the work of a truly great singing actor” International Record Review, November 2011
“This set is, I presume, the result of a single, concert-hall performance...Katarina Dalayman, Falk Struckmann and Klaus Florian Vogt do much to transcend the performance's oratorio-like ambience...the combined forces of the Netherlands Radio Choir and Latvian State Male Choir bring an appropriate weight of tone to a performance that certainly can't be accused of skating blithely over the great work's surface.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2011
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