Boehm Wozzeck/Lulu

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BC
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Boehm Wozzeck/Lulu

Post by BC » Fri Aug 10, 2007 12:50 pm

Amazon UK has this in a box set (three CDs) at the exceptionally reasonable price of £10.97. Berg's operas may be a little too discordant for me, but nothing ventured etc and at that price I am tempted to take a punt if these are regarded as good versions -- does anyone have any views?

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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Aug 10, 2007 1:21 pm

Who are the singers? There are several conducted by Böhm.
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Post by piston » Fri Aug 10, 2007 1:33 pm

And also at least two different orchestras, Berlin and Vienna. If it's the 1950's Vienna recording, with the Andante label, then you should pay close attention to reviews because two different c.m. magazines indicate that the sound, mono if I'm not mistaken, is a real problem. Bohm's 1960's recording with Fischer-Dieskau (DG), however, is considered "historical." Abbado and Dohnanyi also recorded their own Wozzeck in Vienna.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Post by BC » Fri Aug 10, 2007 1:42 pm

The version I'm looking at is here:

http://tinyurl.com/2zpnt5

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Post by piston » Fri Aug 10, 2007 1:47 pm

How can you miss? Send me a copy. :D
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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Aug 10, 2007 1:51 pm

Go for it. Bohm and Fischer-Dieskau: a marriage made in heaven. Lear owned those roles in the wilderness years when Berg's operas were not performed as often as they are today. I can't say I like the music, but I like the idea of Lulu and Wozzeck. If you can and are in the mood, hunt down Perl's definitive books on the two operas, which are extremely rich in information about the intellectual background and symbolism of the operas. See, I love all that stuff; it's the music I can't stand. :wink:
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Post by Chalkperson » Fri Aug 10, 2007 3:13 pm

That's a great set, it was selling here for double what you are paying, I have the Andante Set also and Piston is right, the sound ain't that great...

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Post by BC » Sat Aug 11, 2007 6:18 am

Thanks everyone, I will get it.

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Post by RebLem » Sat Aug 11, 2007 8:53 am

I do dimly recall this recording having received high praise in the past. However, I looked in the AMG, which I thing is the best guide on such matters. They recommend the Boulez Lulu, and among modern recordings of Wozzeck, the Dohnanyi first, and the Abbado second. They also recommend an historical recording by Dmitri Mitropoulous as a third choice.

I went to add the first choices to my wants list (as I am no longer buying records, until I have listened to all of what I have, which willl take at least 10 more months), and I found that the favored recordings are no longer available on their original labels, but have been issued on ArkivCD. The Dohnanyi Wozzeck has the additional advantage of including the Schoenberg Erwartung, sung by Anja Silja, who also performs in the Wozzeck. I remember a magnificent live performance of Erwartung I saw & heard in Chicago with Silja and Solti, and so, I won't even think of the Abbado.
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Post by absinthe » Sat Aug 11, 2007 9:51 am

I have this set. His Lulu isn't the most inspiring, the Wozzeck is ok.
The only Lulu I listen to these days is Silja/Dohnanyi which also has the merit of being the incomplete version, no tamperings by Cerha.

The problem with Berg's Lulu is that it's easy to make it sound mildly discordant and slightly Berg-like but to make it sound as Berg most likely intended is another matter.

.

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Post by BC » Sat Aug 11, 2007 1:29 pm

Astonishingly enough, this:

http://tinyurl.com/yur273

Appears to be an even better bargain. It includes the Boulez Lulu and Abbado Wozzeck for only an extra £9.

More details here:

http://www.amazon.com/Alban-Berg-Collec ... B0000B09Z4

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Post by absinthe » Sun Aug 12, 2007 11:37 am

Boulez' Lulu is fine particularly for a CD performance. He seems to bring the orchestra too far forward - like I say, great for a CD but might hinder a stage performance.

He also conducts the score completed by Cerha (against Berg's wishes, I might add), so you get a lot of Berg and some Cerha. As an aside, I don't think Cerha made a good go of it - sounds like Berg, sure, but it wasn't what he wrote so we can only wonder. However, I'm biased by the pre-Cerha versions (even have a recording of Anneliese Rothenberger making a credible go at it...I think she even did Marie in Wozzeck) so don't take any notice of my prejudice against wannabes who rest on other people's work to get their names on the role of honours! !

As a whole, the set you're looking at is good value - you get just about everything he wrote for under $40/£20 in what appear to be good performances! The 7 early songs (which you get in 2 versions here) and Altenberg Lieder are a mix of acutely romantic Berg and his early venture into atonality. The Chamber Concerto...a well known ensemble but... Barenboim? (wincing.... then a shrug....ok!)

.

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Post by BC » Sun Aug 12, 2007 2:10 pm

Ok I've ordered the bigger box set. This may be more Berg than I'll ever enjoy, but I'll take the gamble at that price. All I know so far is the Lulu suite and Violin Concerto - I like the latter very much, and think I could possibly come to like the former although after 3 or 4 listens (inc one live performance) I've found it only sporadically enjoyable so far.

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Post by absinthe » Tue Aug 14, 2007 8:05 am

BC wrote:Ok I've ordered the bigger box set. This may be more Berg than I'll ever enjoy, but I'll take the gamble at that price. All I know so far is the Lulu suite and Violin Concerto - I like the latter very much, and think I could possibly come to like the former although after 3 or 4 listens (inc one live performance) I've found it only sporadically enjoyable so far.
It might help to see the opera if you have a chance to borrow one of the DVDs. Hopefully you'll find one with Lulu's character painted less as a money-grabbing prostitute than a naive girl forced to give what she really hadn't got to give....if that makes sense. She meets her sad fate all the same. It isn't an easy role to bring off.

The ending of Wozzeck brings me to tears.

So, good luck and hoping you also like the songs.

absinthe

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Post by diegobueno » Tue Aug 14, 2007 2:25 pm

George Perle's Book on Lulu has a chapter on the posthumous compositional history of the opera. He cites a letter from Berg to Webern written on May 6, 1934 in which Berg announces that he has completed the entire opera. He writes:

The fact that I have brought the composition of Lulu to an end has not made me so absolutely happy as one might suppose. In the penultimate part there are some things that are only hastily sketched in, to be worked out later. Now I also have to "overhaul" (as one says of cars) the whole composition from the beginning again. The work has stretched out over years and one still ahsn't a complete picture of the way the music unfolds. Therefore I'm now forced to look back, in the course of which there will be a bit of retouching. All this will still require two or three weeks, so that I will be able to start the instrumentation only in June.

The portions that were "only hastily sketched in" were, to this famously slow-working composer, slight enough that he felt he could knock it off in just a couple of weeks.

The original edition of the piano/vocal score by Erwin Stein, published in 1936 has a preface that states "Alban Berg completed the composition of his three-act opera Lulu shortly before his death", and promises the publication of Act III at a later time. Stein prepared a vocal score for the 3rd act which was (Perle's words) "laid out for publication to the very last bar". This was never published, though 70 pages of it were engraved. The Nazi regime, and the war, made performance in Germany impossible, so the project was allowed to lapse. After the war Helene Berg controlled all of Berg's material and she absolutely denied access by anyone to the 3rd act of Lulu. So it was her wish that the work not be completed, not Berg's.

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Post by BC » Tue Aug 14, 2007 4:07 pm

I will try to get my hands on the DVD at some point. It might not be soon: after many years of rarely listening to classical music, I've really caught the bug again and am buying it much faster than I can listen to it. Not least 20th-century opera: in the past couple of weeks I've bought Debussy's Pelleas, Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth, Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle, and now the two Bergs. This on top of the Stravinsky box set I'm still working through and a bunch of other stuff.

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Post by John F » Tue Aug 14, 2007 4:35 pm

Berg had all but completed Act 3 of "Lulu" when he died. Indeed, as George Perle says in his monograph about the opera, "At the time of the composer's death there was no controversy about this question. The authorized sources--the composer's publisher and his official biographer--stated quite simply that Alban Berg had himself completed the composition of the opera, and no one contradicted it at the time... The vocal score of Act III was, in fact, completed (from Berg's Particell) by Erwin Stein and laid out for publication to the very last bar... [According to Willi Reich,] 'Berg left a complete and very carefully worked out preliminary score of 'Lulu.' Only the instrumentation of a few places in the middle of the last act was not finished and this could easily be carried out from the given material by some friend familiar with Berg's work.'"

It was not Berg but his widow Helene who obstructed this being done, for arbitrary and unworthy personal reasons. Perle gives the tangled story. There is no justification in the composer's wishes or in the nature of the material itself for not finishing up what Berg had to leave undone. And despite a recent revival in Vienna of the two-act version, possibly as a sop thrown to the Berg Foundation set up under Helene Berg's will, I can see no valid artistic reason why anything but the completed opera should ever be performed.

Perle, both a Berg expert and a composer in his own right, had hoped to get this job himself. It's highly significant, then, that he praises Cerha's approach and actual work on almost every point, instead of making claims that he might have done it better. He and Cerha both say that the completion isn't "definitive", which is obvious, as only Berg himself could have had the definitive last word. But definitive or not, it's unlikely that rival versions, like those of Mahler's Symphony #10, will compete for performance.

All this said, I like the 2-act recordings by Böhm and Dohnanyi as supplements to Boulez's complete version. Böhm and his singers achieve a compelling beauty of sound and a warmth, while the Decca/London recording documents the greatest Lulu I ever saw, Anja Silja, less than a decade on from the standard-setting Wieland Wagner production. Boulez's recording of the 3-act version is the indispensable one, though I'm not letting go of my airchecks of Met performances under James Levine.
John Francis

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Post by absinthe » Sat Aug 18, 2007 10:32 am

Oops, looks like I boo-booed over Berg's widow rather than Berg denying access to the manuscripts of the 3rd act. No other excuse than the source from which I picked the idea was earlier than George Perle's book by the look of things.

I recall something strange about it the circumstances of this refusal business. Apologies anyway but I'll try to look up said source.

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Re: Boehm Wozzeck/Lulu

Post by Beckmesser » Thu Feb 18, 2010 10:17 am

I have never seen Berg's Lulu so I am thinking of attending one of the performances at the Met this spring.

Being unfamiliar with the opera, I have been preparing by listening to a library recording (a 1968 performance with Karl Böhm conducting the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera and Anja Silja in the title role on the Andante label).

After listening to it through a couple of times I have a question. How does a singer learn to sing and memorize these vocal parts? The intervals are so strange and sometimes quite awkward. The orchestra is often doing something quite different from the vocal line (no Puccini-like doubling here) so the singers must be quite on their own. Do these singers have to have special abilities like absolute pitch? Evelyn Lear is said to have learned the role in only three weeks. How is this possible? I am not a singer but I can't imagine how one learns this difficult music. I don't think I could sing it to save my life.

My best friend in college had a girl friend who was a singer with a three-octave range and absolute pitch. She later acquired a reputation as a specialist in contemporary vocal music and became chair of the vocal department at one of our leading conservatories. I wonder if these are the kinds of skills that this sort of vocal writing requires.

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Re: Boehm Wozzeck/Lulu

Post by diegobueno » Thu Feb 18, 2010 11:09 am

The trouble with the Boehm recording of Lulu is that it lacks the 3rd act, which is essential to the story and to Berg's symmetrical organizational plan.
Lulu was so close to being complete at the time of Berg's death that there wasn't all that much for Cerha to do. It was Berg's widow who insisted that the opera not be completed, not Berg. In short, there's no reason not to listen to the complete 3-act version and every reason to experience it in its entirety. I'd go with the Boulez.

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Re: Boehm Wozzeck/Lulu

Post by Beckmesser » Thu Feb 18, 2010 11:20 am

diegobueno wrote:The trouble with the Boehm recording of Lulu is that it lacks the 3rd act, which is essential to the story and to Berg's symmetrical organizational plan.
Lulu was so close to being complete at the time of Berg's death that there wasn't all that much for Cerha to do. It was Berg's widow who insisted that the opera not be completed, not Berg. In short, there's no reason not to listen to the complete 3-act version and every reason to experience it in its entirety. I'd go with the Boulez.
Thanks for the advice. I can borrow that recording from a different library in our system.

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Re: Boehm Wozzeck/Lulu

Post by John F » Fri Feb 19, 2010 8:23 am

diegobueno wrote:The trouble with the Boehm recording of Lulu is that it lacks the 3rd act, which is essential to the story and to Berg's symmetrical organizational plan.
Lulu was so close to being complete at the time of Berg's death that there wasn't all that much for Cerha to do. It was Berg's widow who insisted that the opera not be completed, not Berg. In short, there's no reason not to listen to the complete 3-act version and every reason to experience it in its entirety. I'd go with the Boulez.
Absolutely right. Once you've heard "Lulu" as Berg conceived and almost completed it, the makeshift 2-act version just isn't adequate to the work. Whatever the other virtues of the particular performance or recording may be. Now that there are several 3-act alternatives on CD and DVD to Boulez's well cast but rather antiseptic Paris recording, there's even less reason to settle for the 2-act version. The only reason to own one, as an occasional alternative, would be to hear outstanding conducting and performances of major roles.

Böhm never identified with "Lulu" as he did with "Wozzeck," and while his DG set of "Wozzeck" is at once the most dramatic and lyrical version I've heard, I listened to the DG "Lulu" only once. Instead it's the Decca/London version with Anja Silja's great, uncanny Lulu and the Vienna Philharmonic playing its native son's music that I go back to from time to time.

What I'd really like to see would be a DVD issue of the Metropolitan Opera telecast of John Dexter's fine production in 1980. Teresa Stratas cancelled at the last minute and Julia Migenes stepped in, unforgettably, joining a cast with Franz Mazura, Evelyn Lear (this time as Geschwitz), Kenneth Riegel, and Andrew Foldi, while James Levine led possibly the most eloquent 3-act performance yet. Probably not a chance in the world of this being released, so anyone who videotaped it off the air (I missed the chance) has the advantage of us all.

And those in New York next May will have 3 chances to catch Levine conducting one of the scores he particularly loves, with with Marlis Petersen in the title role, Anne Sofie von Otter as Countess Geschwitz, James Morris as Dr. Schön, and Gary Lehman as Alwa. I'm certainly not going to miss it! May 8 (matinee), 12, and 15.
John Francis

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Re: Boehm Wozzeck/Lulu

Post by MJWal » Fri Feb 19, 2010 11:00 am

I agree that the 3-act completion of Lulu must now be considered the norm. There's a pretty good Glyndebourne video/DVD with Christine Schäfer, if the Boulez version on CD (I saw it on TV when it was premiered, so there must be a film of that...) is considered a bit cold in its effect - I think so myself. The best production of the 3-act version I have seen was in Frankfurt with Gielen conducting and a very good Lulu whose name I have forgotten.. Before that Anja Silja appeared several times under Dohnanyi in the incomplete version - histrionically impressive but vocally always on the edge, not pleasurable to listen to nor easily comprehensible by the early 70s. I remember Hotter as Schigolch - what a stage animal he was, even in decline! The greatest Lulu I've seen & heard was Helga Pilarczyk in Hamburg in the mid-60s - you can hear her on the Dorati recording of the suite on Mercury, excellent - for me he is the best Berg conductor, with Maderna, whose recording of the pre-Cerha opera is stylistically remarkable and powerful even if his Lulu is less than perfect, and Heinz Rehfuss as Dr Schön is superb (F-D, eat your heart out...). There is also a recent video/DVD of the 2 act version with Laura Aikin as a great Lulu in every respect, vocally and dramatically - and very sexy - but you have to be open to the interpretation of the title figure as essentially an abused child; it makes sense to me, but I can't help wondering how the stage director would have produced the very sleazy 3rd act.

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Re: Boehm Wozzeck/Lulu

Post by MJWal » Fri Feb 19, 2010 11:15 am

Oh, and I forgot to say: I've seen quite a few Wozzecks, starting with Geraint Evans in Covent Garden, but Toni Blankenheim in Hamburg was quite remarkable - and that singer can be experienced on DVD with Bruno Maderna, the greatest and most sympathetic Berg stylist, conducting - and Sena Jurinac as Marie in a TV film set in and around a German castle: just wonderful. Not to be missed, really.

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Re: Boehm Wozzeck/Lulu

Post by John F » Sat Feb 20, 2010 3:02 pm

MJWal wrote:The best production of the 3-act version I have seen was in Frankfurt with Gielen conducting and a very good Lulu whose name I have forgotten.. Before that Anja Silja appeared several times under Dohnanyi in the incomplete version - histrionically impressive but vocally always on the edge, not pleasurable to listen to nor easily comprehensible by the early 70s.
Anja Silja first took the role of Lulu in Wieland Wagner's production for Stuttgart in 1966, when in her mid-20s, with GMD Ferdinand Leitner conducting. One of the great stage impersonations I've seen, not just in opera, in one of the great productions, and while Silja's voice was never conventionally beautiful, it was steady, capable of technical brilliance, and used with musical and dramatic intelligence. Years earlier Solti auditioned her for the Frankfurt Opera and says she's the only one to his knowledge whose audition pieces were the Queen of the Night's aria and the Liebestod - both of which are relevant to the vocal and dramatic demands of Lulu.

I'd agree that the Decca/London recording isn't at that level, but I guess it's all we have, unless the Stuttgart production was filmed or recorded.
John Francis

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