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BERG: “WOZZECK.” Hildegard Behrens, Franz Grundheber, Heinz...

BERG: “WOZZECK.” Hildegard Behrens, Franz Grundheber, Heinz Zednik, Aage Haugland; Wiener Vienna State Opera Chorus and Vienna Philharmonic, conducted by Claudio Abbado. Deutsche Grammophon 423 587 (two compact discs). This documentation of a live 1987 Vienna performance represents a trade-off. The excitement of the occasion provides incendiary moments, but they are achieved at the expense of sundry, unwanted stage noises and a recording balance that favors the orchestra over the singers, who frequently lack ideal presence. Abbado’s absorbing leadership favors neither clinical detachment nor morbid romanticism, while Berg’s tautly conceived structure emerges in tandem with his pervasive compassion. The climactic Act III epilogue is shattering. More attentive than most to the composer’s instructions on attacking notes, the cast is dominated by Grundheber’s lyric Wozzeck and Behrens’ potently introspective Marie. Only Zednik’s strangulated Captain dips into caricature.


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