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Otto Klemperer Covent Garden Orchestra and Chorus
BEETHOVEN: FIDELIO
(Testament)

Otto Klempererís justly famous 1962 EMI recording of Beethovenís lone opera is now complemented by this BBC broadcast from the previous year. The studio recording has been held by many as the benchmark of modern performances, full of weighty, solemn power. This live performance, though, offers a more dynamic account of Beethovenís hymn to conjugal fidelity and political freedom, one that sacrifices a few details in favor of a sense of tension that mounts right up to the exuberant final scene. After the second actís "O namenlose Freude" duet, half the audience breaks out in loud applause while the other half tries to quiet everyone down so Klemperer can get on with the third Leonore Overture (missing from the EMI recording). The Covent Garden Orchestra is every bit the equal of the Philharmonia, and the pit perspective gives the winds a welcome extra prominence.

Over the conductorís objection, EMI insisted on replacing most of the cast for the studio recording. This performance reveals the foolishness of that decision. Jon Vickers surpasses his studio effort, and Gottlob Frick is at least equal to his. Sena Jurinac is superb in her first performance as Leonore, radiating conviction and passion. Elsie Morison is a suitably youthful Marzelline and Hans Hotter an appropriately demonic Don Pizarro. The sound is a shade less clear than the studio versionís, with some distortion on the high end, but otherwise excellent by broadcast standards. An invaluable document, even for those familiar with Klempererís inimitable way with this great work.

BY DAVID WEININGER


Issue Date: July 9 - 15, 2004
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