Decca's recent foray into the world of opera with librettos on CD-ROM has proved to be a huge success on all fronts. Since Philips is now part of the Decca group, we also have quite a few fine operas from the Dutch label's back catalogue with this Lohengrin being a case in point.
I remember Sawallisch's white hot version previously available in a sumptuous Philips 'Bayreuth Wagner Edition' that also included Boulez's 'Ring' and Bohm's masterly 'Tristan'. I doubt if Sawallisch's version has ever been surpassed and having grown up with Keilberth's masterly recording also on Decca, I can safely say that I was bowled over by the fantastic sound of the 1963 version that also includes a cast of top notch singers. Jess Thomas is a brilliant Lohengrin whilst Silja and Vinay are also towering in their respective roles. The orchestra plays with a devilish abandon throughout and the passion and dedication of all has to be heard to be believed.
Solti's more modern version with Domingo pales into relative insignificance although the more lavish packaging and undeniably state-of-the-art sound will sway some. At this price, you had better snap this Lohengrin up, it must be the bargain of the year in the Wagnerian operatic field.
Copyright © 2003, Gerald Fenech