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CD Review

Ludwig van Beethoven

Opera in Two Acts

  • Leonore: Sena Jurinac
  • Florestan: Jon Vickers
  • Rocco: Gottlob Frick
  • Don Pizarro: Hans Hotter
  • Marzelline: Hans Hotter
The Covent Garden Opera Chorus
The Covent Garden Orchestra/Otto Klemperer
Testament SBT2-1328 2CDs 142m ADD Rec: 1961
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Otto Klemperer's liaison with Fidelio has long been one of the legends of the gramophone and it is finally heartening to find that this legendary 1961 Covent Garden performance is at last on disc. Although the studio recording remains one of the classics in the recording history of this opera, this cast of singers remains arguably, the finest ever assembled.

From the very first bars of the overture, you sense that this is one of those grand dramatic occasions that happen only very rarely. Jurinac is simply superb as Leonore whilst Vickers shows the promise of youth and confirms his status as one of the greatest Florestan's ever. Frick and Hotter need no special praise from me as they are also quite fantastic as Rocco and Don Pizarro respectively. At times, the recording may seem a bit boxy but on the whole, it has transferred well to disc.

One of the greatest thrills I had out of his set however was the reading of Mike Ashman's extensive notes together with Alan Blyth's singular reminiscences and the original Klemperer and Bloch introductions. The inclusion of the Leonore #3 Overture was much debated in those days but I found the experience most uplifting and invigorating. The applause adds to the emotions of the live performance and I can safely say that this is indeed, the greatest 'Fidelio' ever set down on disc. Bravo Testament for finally making this treasure available!

Copyright © 2004, Gerald Fenech