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THE Elektra to Buy
This is the Elektra to buy. Being an orchestral brass player, I can say there is a fire Solti has Vienna play with that few orchestras will approach today because of a changed sound concept. Nilsson is at a peak during this recording, and envelops you in pathos for the entire performance! This is the one recording that is on fire the entire time, and, because of that, it has been the standard by which all other Elektras are judged. Since you’ve clicked the more button, here is more detail, and a more academic review. Mentioning the recording is on fire means a great deal. It means that, on top of a technically marvelous performance by orchestra and cast, the interpretation is top notch. Strauss is famous for being decent at orchestration, but being mediocre at thematic development. Consequently, the motifs (more like leitmotifs) should return again and again with equal intensity and clarity. Solti ensures this consistency (of tone, articulation, or volume) remains throughout the drama—even to the last axe blows in the trumpets near the end. Unfortunately, in later recordings, this cohesion is lacking—especially when passing a motif between the strings and brass. Sometimes a performance has an additional energy—ability to remote. This recording masters a cohesive approach, technical prowess, and maintains a breathtaking magic spark throughout the drama! In this case, the energy keeps you on the edge of your seat waiting for the next instance of pathos and extreme emotion. Fortunately, the orchestra and Nilsson carry the listener through some of Strauss’s less-inspired “let me glue these two sections together” moments—especially before the meeting with Klytemnastra. (But, to make up for that moment, Resnik lets out some horrific—horrific even by opera standards—shreaks after the dream sequence, and again during the murder!) The modern brass sound and modern recording equipment (and engineers) would be apprehensive about executing what Solti got out of Vienna. I am hoping for a new recording to match or trump this so I can have a decent DVD of Elektra, but it seems this recording has set an extremely high standard—seemingly impossibly high for a lesser-known work. Listen to the rounded quality of the Met recording for an extreme example of how a modern orchestral sound can take away the fire and pathos from Elektra! Unfortunately (and this is coming from a modern orchestral brass player), more orchestras lean towards such a modern concept of sound for Elektra. This 2007 version seems to try to impose a modern orchestral sound on the recording. Fortunately, that goal failed. Unfortunately, it feels we are left with an accentuated bass and treble. A plus for this remastering is that the engineer(s) changed the balance in a few places so that previously subdued motif instances are more visible. The next most recent version (the blue, grey, and red box) feels more of the Earth—more on fire and raw. I grew to enjoy this raw, Earthy character, but will enjoy reading the score with the clarity of this new version; little is lost if the older remstering is phased out. Enjoy! Both are on iTunes for you to judge (and these comprise the only real choice when choosing a recorded Elektra)!
Nilsonn's the one
this is unbelievable. It still wipes me out every time. Shame on you if you don't have this and are a committed Straussian
like myself. Nothing more need be said. Enjoy.